Patients who have undergone surgery will usually recover from treatment in 8-12 weeks and can gradually return to leading a full life. For the first few weeks after a patient returns from hospital, someone needs to be available to assist them with the usual routine tasks and generally getting back on their feet. Your healthcare professional can guide you on the specific ways in which you can help your loved-one, so please ask them for advice.
Sometimes patients do not want to ask for help, but it is important they are reminded to do so as it is important not to overdo things at the early stage.
You can also help by ensuring the patient eats a healthy balanced diet as this also helps recovery and ensure that patients regularly check their weight. Another way that you can help is by encouraging and helping the patient to start gentle exercise a couple of weeks after leaving hospital. All exercise should build up gradually.
Here are some of the things you need to know when caring for someone who has just had 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 difficult for someone who has just had a heart treatment.
- 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.
- By week 6 they should comfortably be able to walk for 30 minutes. Develop a routine of exercise you can do together.
- 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.
To help your loved one through the first weeks after treatment, why not look at our resources. These have been designed for patients, but will be useful for anyone supporting a patient after treatment.