Helping a Loved One After Coronary Artery Bypass Graft Surgery
People in recovery from
coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery may need
assistance from family members and friends in a variety of ways. You may help
your loved one for several weeks during recovery with a number of tasks,
including shopping, cleaning, and driving. Also, he or she may rely on
you for emotional support.
If you have a family member or other loved one who has just returned
home from the hospital after CABG surgery, you may want to know what you can do
to help. Your loved one may not be able to do normal activities and may
also need a great deal of encouragement and emotional support.
Your loved one who has just had open-heart surgery may have
considerable physical limitations. So he or she may rely on others for
help with relatively simple but important tasks. You and your friends and
family may choose to assume a large role in managing his or her day-to-day
life. You can help by:
Shopping for and preparing food. Many people
recovering from surgery cannot leave their homes on their own to shop for food.
The kinds of foods needed will be low-fat, low-salt, and low-cholesterol.
Cleaning. Simple cleaning tasks can be too physically demanding
during recovery. But a clean house is crucial to both mood and health (to
avoid infections). So you can consider helping to clean house
regularly or hiring a maid service.
Driving. Your loved one will
not be able to drive for 4 to 6 weeks after CABG surgery. It is important that
his or her chest bone heals properly, and sudden arm movements or an accident
while driving could cause serious injury. But your loved one will need to
go to frequent doctor appointments during recovery. You may need to drive him
or her to these follow-up appointments as well as to any other
Medicines. Your loved one will probably need to take
several medicines after CABG surgery. You could help him or her by organizing
the medicines. You can get a special pillbox (with one or more compartments
for each day of the week) or mark a calendar as a memory aid.
Providing emotional support
Being a full-time caregiver may be an unfamiliar role for you. Maybe
you never imagined yourself spending most of your time taking care of a loved
one. There are several things you can do to help provide the emotional support
Offer encouragement. Adopting the lifestyle
changes that doctors recommend for heart disease can be difficult. If your
loved one is having trouble or becoming frustrated, encourage him or her to
start slowly and build up to the overall goal gradually. You may also offer to
change your own lifestyle to encourage healthy behaviors.
help, but encourage your loved one to remain active. He or she should try to
stay as active as possible. As recovery progresses, moderate exercise and doing
simple tasks around the house can be safe. This can help your loved one feel
better both physically and mentally. If you are concerned about what activities
are safe, speak with the doctor who has been the most involved in your loved
Ask if you can participate in doctor visits. You can
offer support by sitting in on doctor visits and taking notes. This can help
your loved one remember important instructions and help him or her feel less
alone during the recovery experience.
Looking after yourself
Being a caregiver can be mentally and physically challenging. There
are things you can do to help make the situation more manageable for yourself.
Remember that you will only be an effective and loving caregiver if you are in
good physical and mental shape. Try to find ways to reduce the stress of caregiving.
Enlist help when you need it. If possible, don't
take on all the responsibilities yourself. You may be able to involve other
family members or a visiting nurse or even hire a food delivery or housekeeping
service to help with the shopping and cleaning.
Take time for
yourself. Being a caregiver can be stressful and time-consuming. To avoid
burnout and to continue to provide care and support, it is important to save
some time for activities that you enjoy.
Seek emotional support if
you need it. Being a caregiver to a loved one who is recovering from major
surgery can be emotionally difficult. If you are having trouble coping with
your feelings, you should not feel ashamed or embarrassed about seeking advice
and counseling from appropriate sources, such as other family members, trained
mental health professionals, or religious advisers.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.