Facing severe illness

A nurse is holding the hand of an elderly patient Heart failure is a progressive condition, which means that there may be a time when your symptoms and quality of life get worse.

You might find that you’re less able to get about and do things. You may also find it difficult to cope mentally and emotionally as well as physically. Remember that you’re not alone and that support is available. Here we point you towards people and services that can help you, whether you’re looking for help yourself or you’re caring for someone else.

Some areas of the country have heart failure nurses who can help you to manage your condition on a day-to-day basis and answer some of your questions. Ask your doctor if there is a heart failure nurse available in your area.

Getting help with day to day life

  • If you need help at home, talk to your GP or nurse or social services about getting extra help. 
  • If you have difficulty cooking meals for yourself, some local authorities offer a ‘Meals on wheels’ service delivering hot food to your home or can arrange for a support carer to prepare meals for you at home. Enter your postcode at gov.uk to find out what’s available in your area.
  • If you find it difficult to get out and about on your own you might find it helpful to:
    • use a wheelchair or mobility scooter
    • have plenty of rest periods in the day.

Financial help

You can find out about the benefits available for you or a friend or family member who is caring for you at gov.uk

If your doctor says that you may be facing the last six months of your life then you can quickly claim an Attendance Allowance or Disability Living Allowance under ‘special rules’. When applying for one of these benefits your doctor will need to complete a short medical report (a DS1500) about your condition. Ask your GP for help with this.

Dying Matters lists local services that can also help you.

Palliative care

There may come a time when you need palliative care. Palliative care is the term used to describe the support and care of people whose illness can’t be cured. It focuses on helping you to achieve the best quality of life possible. This means controlling your symptoms, ensuring you are as comfortable as possible and offering emotional support and social care for you and your family.

Your GP and heart failure nurse, as well as other professionals who work in palliative care, can help you to think about what care you would like now and in the future. They can also help you to think about, discuss and plan for the last months, weeks and days of life. We talk more about these options in Facing the end of life.

Talking about what’s on your mind

Talking to your family, friends and the people looking after you about how you feel can help.

You might also find it helpful to talk to a counsellor if you’re feeling depressed, anxious or finding it difficult to cope.

Caring for someone

If you're caring for someone who has a severe illness, you can find more information and support on our caring for a heart patient page.

More help and advice 

If you want more help and advice you can call our Heart helpline on 0300 330 3311. Phone lines are open 9am - 5pm Monday to Friday. 

Or email us your questions by using our online contact us form

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