• Coping with the Challenges Of Heart Failure

    Animation Copyright © Milner-Fenwick
    One way to keep heart failure from overwhelming you, is to learn to cope with the challenges it presents.
    Making lifestyle changes can be one of the most frustrating parts of living with heart failure. If you are having trouble with them, ask your healthcare team for help.
    Writing down the pros and cons of making the change, and rewarding yourself when you reach your goals, can also help you stick with them.
    "If I go out tonight and eat a big supper of deep fat fried chicken and well salted-down french fries and that type of thing, about Monday I’ll feel rather depressed."
    Do not let the occasional slip up bring you down.
    "In a sense, it’s an opportunity for us to improve. You know, it’s not a failed episode. It’s a time that we can say, ‘Ok, now what do we do? Let’s not repeat this again.’"
    It is not uncommon for heart failure to put a strain on even your closest relationship.
    "I think when you do have congestive heart failure, or any disease …It affects everybody in a certain way."
    Family and friends may be just as upset or scared as you are.
    "A lot of times I thought I’m a burden to her, you know, because she’s got to get up and do this for me, do that for me, get this for me, get that for me, because I can’t do it."
    Your family may react by being overly protective of you. Or, they may ignore your illness altogether. It’s also not unusual to have trouble performing sexually.
    All of these problems can lead to hurt feelings, anger, and arguments.
    Talking about your heart failure can actually help both you and your loved ones feel a lot better. Share your treatment plan with them, and talk about how it will affect all of your lives.
    If you are having troubles related to sex, talk about them with your partner. Your healthcare team may also be able to help.
    You and your loved ones may also find comfort in beginning to plan for the future.
    Advance directives instruct your healthcare team about the kind of medical care you wish to receive, if there comes a time when you can no longer speak for yourself.
    Discuss your options.
    When you make your decision, make sure you express your wishes in writing and share them with your family and your healthcare team.
    This is not an easy topic to discuss, but it is a very important one. It can prevent your family from having to make difficult decisions later, and give you some peace of mind now.
    Despite your best efforts there may be times when you can’t stop feeling frustrated or hopeless. This could be depression.
    "Right now it’s so uncertain. I don’t know what I can do. I don’t know if I will be able to do anything."
    "I’ve been depressed."
    If you have any of the following symptoms, contact your healthcare team: poor concentration, anger; sleeping too little or too much; loss of appetite; not caring about how you look, or about things you used to care about; repeated thoughts about death and dying.
    Depression can be treated, and your healthcare team can help.
    You may not always be able to avoid getting upset when you have heart failure, but there are steps you can take to deal with those feelings so you can continue enjoying your life.
    "It’s not the end. It’s not the end."
    "I’m still here and I have some good support. She keeps me going, and my grandkids, they are a great inspiration."
    "This is what you were given, what you have and that’s what you live with. So you might as well do the best you can."
    "Yes, I can’t do the things that I used to do but I really enjoy life."
    Animation Copyright © Milner-Fenwick
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