Heart Disease Caregiver Stress
The most insidious side effect of heart disease is the stress the patient is placed under. Stress is almost always accompanied by anxiety, depression and anger, not to forget fear. A good cardiologist will ask about these symptoms in the patient. Few will ask about how the caregiver is doing. This sucks. The caregiver will experience the exact amount, if not more, of these symptoms. The stress will manifest itself in the caregiver the following ways:
- A short temper is the result of the fear of the unknown. Stress and the depression cause a considerable amount of anxiety and the result is a short temper. There is little that can be done for this except going outside and screaming at the top of your lungs for a few minutes. Follow this with a few minutes of head banging, followed by a long hot soak and a glass of wine. Covering your patients’ head with a pillow is not the answer no matter how convinced you are no jury in the country would convict you.
- It is common to be angry. The anger is generated by your knowledge your patient should have been taking care of that now sick body. Here is the bad news – you are partly responsible. The anger is for both of you. Once you come to grips with this fact, the anger will be better tolerated if not entirely abated.
- Anxiety will make you feel like you want to jump out of your skin. All the angst is caused by the reasonable fear of the unknown or what is going to happen. Here is the good news – 96% of all open-heart surgery patients survive. Here is the bad news – all 96% have to change their ways and you, the caregiver, must be the disciplinarian to make that happen. Both of your lives depend on this.
Reducing Heart Disease Caregiver Stress
Okay, it is too late to prevent the caregiver stress because you now have it. What can you do about it? Lots. First, however, you must come to grips with the fact that the stress is capable of killing you. If severe enough, it might be necessary for you to get some professional help. Sometimes, all that is really required is a good friend that you can confide it. Telling how you feel is many times all that is needed to help you cope and keep moving.
All I can do is make a few suggestions as to how my wife coped with the stress of my heart disease:
- When the patient is well enough, get out of the house on a regular basis. Go to a bargain matinee. Avoid the popcorn and all the salt and fat of the snacks.
- Make your patient go for a two-mile walk and go along for the fun of it. We were fortunate in this respect. We lived on the San Francisco Bay and could walk along the water. Wherever you can walk, got the patient off his ass and get walking.
- Get out of the house on your own. Just go away for a few hours. After the fourth or fifth week, the patient will be well enough to be left alone for a few hours. If is even more important if the jerk patient complains about your absence. Your mental health is just as important as the patients’ physical health, if not more so.