Heart attack

How it affects carers

It may be possible that actually having a heart attack is less frightening than having it happen to someone you love. Many people mentioned that their heart attack had had a bigger impact on their partner or carer - than it did on them. One man's wife was frightened that he was going to die, and took a long time to feel confident again.

Carers or partners may desperately want to help, but don't know how. One woman's husband found it difficult when she had her heart attack, because it was the one thing he could not put right for her and that made him feel helpless.

Some partners had been over protective and cautious, because they were so worried and concerned that any activity might bring on another heart attack (see 'Recovering from your heart attack'). Many people mentioned that their partner or carer joined them on their cardiac rehabilitation programme, which had given them more confidence (see 'Cardiac rehabilitation and support'). Others had been helped by speaking to their partner's doctor or the cardiac nurse.

Many said that their partner or carer was fundamental during their recovery and that without their support, they would have found it very difficult to recover as well as they had done. Partners or carers had taken the lead in managing lifestyle changes, such as diet or exercise, in reminding them to take medicines, taking over household tasks and driving for a short while, updating family and friends on progress, and generally helping their partner recover.

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A heart attack can greatly stress relationships with carers. The emotional pressure focused particularly on them, which made life harder for a while (see 'Coping with emotions'). One woman explained that her daughter lives with her, sees her bad days and takes the brunt of her emotions, whereas when other members of the family visit, she brightens up.

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Partners may also need to adapt to changes in lifestyle, which if early retirement occurs, can affect household finances. They may not do the same things with their partner that they were used to doing for some time, and if a heart attack is severe - such changes may be permanent. 

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One 37-year-old woman explained that it is difficult for her partner, who is the same age as her, and still wants to do all the things they used to do.

For carers, concern and worry continued long after a heart attack, because of fear that another might occur. One man explained that when he is feeling under the weather, it worries his wife and family more than it does him.

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Last reviewed March 2013.

Last updated August 2010.

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