Heart surgery recovery

The first part of the recuperation process following a heart surgery can last from six to eight weeks. After this period, the patient may be allowed to leave the hospital. The patient has only to follow certain instructions in order to ensure the success of the recovery process. For those who have undergone a minimally invasive surgery, the recovery process may be even shorter. In some cases, self-care instructions are given to the patient after the first part of the process. The following describes some of these self-care techniques.

In order to care for the incision left by surgery, it is important to:

  • Keep the incision area dry and clean
  • Use only water and soap to clean the incision area
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Call your doctor if you detect of feel any sign of an infection. This includes:
  • An increase in the drainage or liquid seeping from the incision site
  • Opening of the incision
  • Irritation causing a redness or warmth around the incision
  • An increase in the body temperature, or if the body temperature is more than 38°C.
  • You also should call your doctor immediately if you feel as if your breastbone or sternum is moving or making popping sounds every time you move.

Some discomfort in the muscles or in the incision area is normal after heart surgery. The patient may also feel some itching, tightness and numbness in the incision area. It is typical to feel some pain and discomfort following any surgery; however, the pain should not be similar to the one felt before the surgery. The patient is generally given prescription pain relievers to ease the discomfort.

For bypass surgery patients, there may be a greater intensity of pain in the legs than in the chest incision area, if leg veins were utilized as grafts. Moderate walking can help to ease the pain, which will eventually dissipate.

The patient’s doctor will be the one to decide when a patient is allowed to drive a car. This usually just takes about six to eight weeks following surgery, although the time may be shorter if the surgery was minimally invasive. For the time immediately following surgery, though, patients should restrict themselves to being passengers.

The outpatient may gradually increase his or her daily activity. Most people are able to do most of the moderate household chores, although standing in one place or position for more than fifteen minutes is not recommended.

Unless otherwise advised by the doctor, climbing stairs is allowed. However, going up and down stairs repeatedly is generally not recommended — especially if a patient has just been released from the hospital.

Walk daily. A cardiac rehabilitation specialist will provide the guidelines for a moderate walk upon a patient’s release.

Heart ailments usually require an assortment of medications. If you are caring for a patient with a heart ailment, you may have to remind the patient to take the medicines as stated in the prescription. It is also helpful if you can prepare the medicines in advance for the patient.

Daily Medication Tips:

  • Always keep a list of the required medications a patient needs to take. Know the dosage and the name of the medicine. It also important that you understand the purpose of the medication and its side effects.
  • Medications need to be taken consistently. You should follow the daily medication routines. Follow the frequency of the medication unless otherwise stated by the doctor. Continue the medication until the doctor says it is okay to stop. This is because abrupt changes in the medication may cause a negative reaction in the patient.
  • Develop a routine for taking medications. You can create a box wherein you can put all the medicines that need to be taken for the day. In this way, you have only to remember to refill the medicine box each day.
  • In those unavoidable circumstances where the scheduled medication is missed, be sure to take it as soon as possible. The next time you talk to a doctor, you may want to ask about the effects of missing a dosage at the scheduled time. In addition, remember that taking two doses is not equal to the missed one.
  • Make sure to replenish any prescribed medicine before it runs out altogether. You can also ask the pharmacist about the effects and side effects of the medicine.

Remember the Needs of the Caregiver
Caregivers also suffer exhaustion at times. This is a state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion that may be accompanied by a change in the attitude of a caregiver – from caring to unconcerned. Exhaustion can occur when a caregiver does not receive the help that they need or when they try to do more than what they are capable of – either financially or physically. Caregivers who are exhausted experience stress, fatigue, anxiety and depression. Caregivers may also feel guilty if they spend less time with a patient.
The symptoms of exhaustion in a caregiver are similar to the symptoms of general stress. These include the following.

  • Withdrawal from social activities, friends and love ones
  • Loss of interest in hobbies
  • Changes in the weight and appetite
  • Changes in the way they sleep
  • Vulnerability to sickness
  • Having the desire to hurt others
  • Physical exhaustion
  • Easily irritated

Caregivers are often too busy to care for themselves. This deteriorates their physical and spiritual health. The demands of the caregiver’s body that are commonly neglected can be a source of fatigue. Here are some other factors that can cause a caregiver to “burn out.”

  • Role confusion: Oftentimes, people become confused when they become caregivers. Caregivers may develop difficulties in separating their roles when it comes to their jobs and their family and friends.
  • Unrealistic expectations: Many caregivers expect their involvement to produce positive effects on the happiness and health of their patients. This may not always occur.
  • Lack of control: Some caregivers may become frustrated with the lack of money and resources to effectively manage the needs of their patients.
  • Unreasonable demands: Some caregivers place unreasonable demands upon themselves. This is because their care takes second place to their responsibility to the patient.
  • Other factors: Many caregivers are unable to determine that they are already suffering from exhaustion to the point that they can no longer function well.

Here are some things you can do to prevent exhaustion as a caregiver:

  • Find someone you can confide in – for instance, talk to a friend; this may allow you to express your emotions and frustrations verbally.
  • Devise a realistic goal – accept the fact that in anything we do we may need the help of others; you may ask someone to help you with some tasks.
  • Do not forget to take care of yourself – being busy is no reason to forget about yourself. Take a break — even for an hour or two; this helps to revitalize the energy in your body, and to ensure that you may function well as a caregiver.
  • Talk to a professional – you may always seek advice from a professional to ensure that what you are doing is right.
  • Take advantage of respite care services – respite care gives a momentary break to caregivers.
  • Know your limits – you can always do a “reality check” to know whether you are up to the task. Recognize and accept the things that may lead to exhaustion.
  • Educate yourself – the more knowledge you have about the illness of your patient, the more effective help you will be able to give.
  • Develop new strategies for coping – remember to lighten up and emphasize positive thoughts. You can also use humor to deal with stress.
  • Stay healthy – eat right and get plenty of exercise and sleep.
  • Accept your feelings – having some frustration with your patient is normal. This does not mean that you are a bad caregiver.
  • Join a caregiver group – this can be a good way to express yourself because there are others to support you. These people also experience what you are undergoing, and they may have helpful advice to deal with your problems.

You should certainly seek medical attention if you think that you are suffering from depression and too much stress. Stress and depression are disorders, but they are treatable ones. In preventing burn out, many resources can help you. The following are resources that can aid you with care giving.

  • Home health services: When your loved ones are severely ill, these agencies can provide health care and assistance. They offer nurses and health aids that can provide short-term care.
  • Adult day care: These programs offer help and services to senior citizens. They provide places where seniors can socialize, experience different activities and receive medical care.
  • Nursing homes: Also called assisted living facilities, these are institutions that offer a breathing space for people who need to take a break from their care giving work.
  • Private care aides: These health aides are professionals who specialize in assessing the current needs of caregivers. They also organize care and services.
  • Caregiver support services: These are support groups that devote their time and efforts to assisting caregivers in their rejuvenating and revitalizing stages. They also help in locating other resources that can be of great assistance to the overall well-being of caregivers.
  • Agency on Aging: You can readily contact the Agency on Aging or the local chapter of AARP to find out what services are available in your locality, such as caregiver support groups, adult day care services and respite care program.


Last updated on Feb 23rd, 2009 and filed under Cardiovascular Disorders. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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