Small steps in recovering from a cardiac event


by Dorian Martin

Hearts have been on my mind lately for two reasons. First of all, Dad (who is almost 88 years old) developed cardiac and pulmonary issues in mid-June that forced him to be hospitalized for a week and remain in a skilled nursing rehabilitation center for another five weeks. He’s home now with home health care staff coming in to check his vital signs and provide physical therapy several times a week.

Secondly, a neighbor who is in his mid-60s had triple bypass surgery Friday after suffering a heart attack. The attending doctor told him that he had never seen anyone survive with that much blockage. My neighbor remains in the coronary care unit, and I haven’t heard a timeline of when he’ll be able to return home.

These heart-related events serve as a red flag alerting my dad and my neighbor that they need to make some lifestyle changes. But first, let’s look at what they need to do recovery-wise.
Back from the hospital

The Cleveland Clinic offers recommendations for elders who have had a cardiac event and who are coming out of the hospital. During the first few weeks that the elder is home, he or she should:

Attend to personal hygiene (bathing, dental care, etc.) and get dressed in the morning as usual.
Spread activities out during the day due to limited stamina.
Walk every day (based on the recommendation of the doctor) in order to regain energy.
Resume light household chores (cooking, dusting, washing dishes, etc.) once the elder feels stronger.
Avoid lifting, pushing or pulling heavy objects until the doctor gives the okay.
Wait to drive, return to work or begin more vigorous activities until the doctor approves.

Additionally, the elder may experience emotions such as anger, depression and anxiety in the aftermath of a heart attack so it’s wise to look for a support group. A cardiac rehabilitation program may be beneficial since it can provide both emotional and physical support for the elder.

A regular schedule can be one step toward returning to health. I wrote in another blog post about how important it is for seniors to have a daily routine, including exercise as recommended by a physician.
Heart-friendly diet

Seniors with cardiac issues also probably need to change to a heart-healthy diet, if they aren’t eating this way already. The Cleveland Clinic also has valuable tips on diet. It’s vital for caregivers and family to be on board with these changes in cooking and shopping for food. Recommendations include:

Limiting dietary cholesterol
Using less salt and increasing intake of potassium, magnesium and calcium
Eating more produce, whole grains and legumes
Carefully selecting which calories come from fat
Eating a variety of proteins in the recommended quantity

Heart attacks as well as heart issues like my father’s are scary experiences. Taking the appropriate steps after hospitalization can help elders regain their footing and resume living their lives.