Caregivers of People With Cardiovascular Disease (CVD)

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: March 2024

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) affects millions of people worldwide each year. It is the number 1 cause of death in the United States. This means that caring for a loved one with CVD is a challenging reality for many people. Being a caregiver involves providing physical, logistical, and emotional support.1

Caregiver responsibilities

Depending on the type of CVD your loved one has, the severity of their condition, their mobility, and other factors, your responsibilities as their caregiver can vary widely. You may be responsible for:1,2

  • Communicating with your loved one’s healthcare team
  • Scheduling doctor’s appointments, follow-up visits, etc.
  • Ensuring that your loved one takes their medicine and adheres to other treatment
  • Paying medical bills
  • Transportation
  • Personal care like bathing, clothing, etc.
  • Cooking, cleaning, and managing the home
  • Emotional support

Caregiver = patient advocate

Being a caregiver means you are that person’s advocate when it comes to their health and medical care. You may be responsible for navigating the complex landscape of healthcare and making sure your loved one receives the best possible care.1

As their patient advocate, your responsibilities may include one or all of the following:1,3,4

  • Understanding the patient’s needs and preferences
  • Advocating for treatment options aligned with those needs and preferences
  • Communicating with doctor(s) and the rest of the healthcare team on behalf of the patient
  • Making informed decisions on their behalf
  • Coordinating medical appointments and medicines

As an advocate, you can empower your loved one to have their voice heard, make informed choices, and get compassionate, patient-centered care.

How to offer support for someone with heart disease

Caring for someone with heart disease requires dedication, patience, and a holistic approach. Here are some caregiving tips that can help improve the overall quality of life for both you and your loved one.3,4

Educate yourself

First, learn as much as you can about the heart condition your loved one has. Learn about the causes, signs and symptoms, and available treatment options. As a caregiver, you are the link between the care provided at home and the care provided by your loved one's medical team. Knowledge empowers you to make informed decisions and offer better support.1,3

Communicate openly

Foster open communication with your loved one. Encourage them to share their feelings, their concerns, and any changes in their health. Being attentive and responsive strengthens your connection and helps address any issues promptly.3,4

Encourage healthy habits

When your loved one is living with CVD, they will most likely have to make some lifestyle changes. These may include increasing their physical activity, eating a healthy diet, and managing stress.1,3

You can support your loved one by adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle with them. Join them in making these positive changes to strengthen your bond and promote both your overall health and well-being.1,3

Get organized for medicine management

You may need to help make sure your loved one takes their medicine, gets their prescriptions refilled on time, and logs any symptoms they may have. Set up a schedule and use pill organizers to stay organized. That way, you can remind your loved one to take prescribed medicines as directed.1,3

Attend medical appointments

When possible, go with your loved one to their medical appointments. This provides moral support and keeps you informed about their health status, medicines, and treatment plans. Be sure to advocate for them by asking questions, listening to their concerns, and speaking up on their behalf when necessary.1,4

Adapt activities to meet their limitations

Having certain physical limitations is common after a CVD diagnosis. Make the adjustments and accommodations your loved one needs. You may have to modify certain activities or areas in the home to make them safe and enjoyable.1,2

Despite these limitations, physical activity is important for people with CVD. Do your best to find activities and exercises that align with your abilities.1,2

Work with them to determine end-of-life wishes

If you are caring for someone who is in the advanced stages of heart disease, it may fall on you to support their end-of-life wishes. If so, begin by having an open and honest conversation about their preferences for end-of-life care. Address things like treatment goals, location of care, and desired emotional and/or spiritual support.1,2

Be sure to document their wishes and ensure that legal documents such as advance directives and living wills are in place. When the time comes, work with their healthcare team to ensure they get palliative care that puts their comfort and dignity first.1

Go with the flow

With heart disease, there are good days and bad days. The ups and downs can be frustrating, to say the least. As a caregiver, if you can navigate these shifts and be flexible, you will be better able to tackle any new issue that comes your way.2

How to support yourself

At times, caregiving might feel like a full-time job. A 2020 study found that caregivers spent an average of 22 hours per week caring for their loved one with heart failure.2

You cannot take care of someone when you are running on empty. Make sure your needs are also supported as you care for your loved one.3

Seek emotional support

Caring for someone with CVD can be emotionally hard. You will likely have many feelings about your loved one’s condition. Try not to shy away from these emotions. Reach out to friends, family, or support groups to share your feelings and experiences. Venting and seeking advice can help relieve stress.2

Take breaks

Taking breaks is key for your mental and physical well-being. Arrange for respite care or ask friends or family to step in sometimes so you can have a much-needed break. Taking time for yourself allows you to recharge your batteries and be a more effective caregiver.

Stay informed about caregiver resources

Stay connected with local and online resources for caregivers. These platforms provide valuable information, support, and opportunities to connect with other caregivers facing similar challenges.

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