Every patient has a different start to their pathway. Friends and family are important members of each part of it. That starts with recognising the signs and symptoms of valve disease in your loved ones.
Ask yourself these questions about our loved ones:
- Are they experiencing chest pain, dizziness or experiencing palpitations?
- Are they finding it difficult to exercise and move around easily?
- Do they complain of feeling older than their age?
- Are they feeling short of breath?
- Are they suffering from excessive tiredness or fatigue
If you notice the above in a loved one, ask them to book an appointment to see their GP and ask for a stethoscope check.
Preparation for the GP
Think about these things before you visit the GP:
- When did they first notice their symptoms of breathlessness, chest pains, dizziness, fainting or difficulty exercising?
- Have they come on suddenly or gradually?
- Have they worsened since first experienced?
- What impact have the symptoms had on the patient’s lifestyle? Have they overlooked signs and symptoms, or misdiagnosed them as the natural ageing process?
- Do they have a medical history of cardiovascular disease, rheumatic fever, connective tissue disorders or any other co-morbidities?
Use our Symptoms tracker to help prepare for the GP. Keeping a track of what the patient is experiencing makes the progress easier and helps with diagnosis.
The healthcare professional will usually:
- Check the patient’s pulse rate and rhythm
- Take the blood pressure
- Auscultate (listen to) the heart for abnormal cardiac murmur using a stethoscope
The GP might then refer the patient for further investigation.
How will I be involved?
Sometimes patients do not want to ask for help, but your loved ones will need assistance in the first six weeks after treatment. Your healthcare professional can guide you on the specific ways in which you can help them, so be sure to ask for advice.
Lead up to procedure
You may need to ensure that the patient has additional help with routine tasks for a few weeks after treatment, planning for this is essential in ensuring a smooth post-treatment transition.
- Write a plan with the patient before treatment and ask a clinician to review it for you. Talk to friends, family, carers and clinicians and think about how you are going to manage the care of your loved one after treatment.
- Eat Healthily. Before the procedure, you should ensure that the patient eats a balanced diet as this helps recovery.
- Regular weight checking. The patient should check their weight regularly to ensure they are not experiencing rapid weight gain or loss
- Talk to them. Talk to your loved ones about how they feel about the upcoming procedure. Research any concerns you have together, ask your clinician, valve disease clinic or Heart Valve Voice about anything that is worrying either of you.
- Set goals and milestones. Set goals for recovery and plan an activity in the future for both of you that you can work towards.
Here are some of the things you need to prepare for when caring for someone after heart valve disease treatment:
- They will be fragile and struggle with many basic movements. For the first few days (when the individual is usually still in the hospital’s care) even sitting up is great progress. Once they get home, routine tasks such as getting dressed and washed will be difficult to begin with.
- The patient won't be able to do much for themselves for the first week. Cooking, cleaning, dressing, washing, walking… all of these will be challenging.
- Nutrition can really enhance recovery. While heart valve disease isn’t linked to diet or other lifestyle factors, good nutrition following heart valve disease treatment is important, as it benefits overall heart health.
- You should encourage routine. Patients may fall into a late-rising, lethargic routine. While rest is obviously key to recovery, it helps if the patient can wake up at a reasonable hour, have a wash get dressed.
- Patient are encouraged to weigh themselves daily. For the first three weeks or so a little weight loss is expected. If they gain more than 5 pounds, mention it to their doctor, as this can suggest fluid retention.
- They should be able to walk for 10 minutes after about two weeks, and gradually build from here. While they will tire easily for the first three weeks or so, it is important that they persevere.
- Positivity is vital. Due to the restricted nature of life immediately after treatment, recovering patients can have low moods, or get frustrated with their situation. Keep them mentally engaged, as this will help prevent post-treatment blues and help the time pass faster.