How should I care for a loved one after hospital discharge?

Dr. Francis X. Downey, MD
Cardiothoracic Surgeon

After getting out of the hospital, you and your loved one will face a new challenge. You may find yourself wondering: Will he or she return to normal? How much depends on me? It's important to remember that no one can control how another person thinks or behaves. But you can be a helper and a support person. You should:

  • Be patient. Recovery does take time. You have good reason to think positively. Most patients do resume their normal lives, including work, exercise, social outings, and sexual activity.
  • Join the patient in a heart-healthy lifestyle. If you follow the same meal plan or start a similar exercise program, you become a partner and role model. Making a change is much easier when two can do it together. You may be doing yourself a favor, too.
  • Allow the patient to be independent as soon as possible. Don't spend every minute with the patient; allow help only when it is needed. Resume your normal schedule as soon as you can. Some patients may not follow the doctor's orders due to denial that a heart attack has occurred. You can encourage your loved one, but you are not responsible for his or her behavior.
  • Use your support system. Continue to accept support and help offered by family and friends. If you have questions about recovery, call someone who can answer them: the doctor, the nurses at the hospital, or the cardiac rehabilitation staff.
  • Review with the patient the instructions received at the hospital. This way you can offer advice and encouragement while the patient takes an active part in learning. Share this information with interested friends and family members, so they can offer additional support.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.