Caring for someone with heart and circulatory disease

People with a heart or circulatory condition may need extra care and support. For example, they may have had surgery or been advised to take some time off work.

If they’ve had a stroke or been diagnosed with heart failure, your loved one might need longer-term support. This may include reminding them about medication, driving them to appointments, cooking their meals or help bathing.

The emotional and practical support needed can vary widely, but we’ve outlined the support available to both you and your loved one.

How to provide emotional support

After finding out about a heart condition, or if someone has had a heart attack or surgery, it’s completely normal for them to feel anxious and low. This can last day or weeks, but it may be longer.

While they adjust to the changes they’re going through:

I am a carer, but I don't think of myself as one. I think that part of loving someone is looking after them. If the boot was on the other foot he'd do the same for me.

 

  • talk to them about how they’re feeling
  • reassure them that you’re there
  • encourage them to talk to others about their feelings and worries
  • encourage and support your loved one to be as independent as possible
  • reinforce the achievements they’ve made, however small.

How to provide practical support

When someone returns from hospital, or if they have long-term health needs, you may have to take on more practical chores to help your loved one. Some examples of practical support include:

  • talking to healthcare professionals
  • reminding them to take medication
  • changing dressings
  • help with washing and dressing
  • helping with chores and paying bills
  • attending appointments with them
  • cooking heart-healthy meals – view our recipe finder for inspiration.

While you’re supporting your loved one, make sure that you also look after your own emotional and physical health. Your life may have changed too and you may have to make your own adjustments.

The importance of looking after yourself

Looking after someone can be physically and emotionally demanding. You may also be juggling caring with other commitments, such as family life and work.

Whether the care you give involves emotional, practical support, or both, it’s important to make time to take care of yourself. This can be helped by:

  • asking others to help with caring responsibilities, such as family members and friends
  • finding time for yourself to relax, taking regular respite breaks (time away from caring)
  • talking to your GP and finding out what emotional and financial support is available to you
  • getting paid care workers to support you
  • eating healthily, staying active and trying to get enough sleep
  • speaking to your workplace to see how they can support you with flexible working or time off for hospital appointments.

Support available that may help

I know now that you can still have a positive life - you just have to know where to go for support.

 

Whether you need practical advice, a sympathetic ear or to take a break, there are organisations ready to give you that support:

  • Talk to your GP who’ll signpost you to support.
  • Talk to your loved one’s healthcare team or cardiac rehabilitation nurse. They can give you a better idea of your caring responsibilities.
  • Call our Heart Helpline. We can provide you with information and support on anything heart-related – call 0300 330 3311 (Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm).
  • Find a Heart Support Group near you. 
  • Search local carers groups who may be able to provide support for you to take time out and peer support.
  • Join our online community to talk to patients and carers, and read other people’s experiences and tips for living with heart and circulatory disease.
  • Social services can carry out a carer’s assessment and needs assessment to make sure you get the services you’re entitled to.

List of helpful organisations:


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