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Post-Surgery Care for Heart Disease

Seniors are especially at risk for congestive heart failure, as it is the primary cause of hospitalization or death for those over 60 years of age.

Published: Feb 25, 2014

Post-Surgery Care for Heart Disease

The causes leading to heart disease that requires surgery vary. Heart attacks and congestive heart failure are two common causes. Both conditions are silent and sneaky. Often individuals are unaware of either danger until their health is in dire straits. Seniors are especially at risk for congestive heart failure, as it is the primary cause of hospitalization or death for those over 60 years of age.

Successful heart surgeries are performed every day, prolonging the lives of seniors across the globe. After surgery, patients typically are directed to make life changes in order to reduce the risk of future problems. Nutritious eating habits, regular exercise, and pursuing overall optimum health top the list of recommendations. Healthy seniors have the potential to lead active lives long after having heart surgery.

The recovery period after heart surgery usually lasts six to 12 weeks. During this time, the senior and caregiver must take precautions in a number of areas.

Proper care for the incision is crucial. Upon hospital discharge, the senior will receive printed instructions for caring for the surgical wound. The instructions will describe any needed treatment or dressing of the incision, as well as instructions about bathing and showering.

Watch for signs of infection which include: fluid oozing from the incision beyond what the doctor advised to expect; separation of the incision; unusual redness, swelling and/or warmth around the wound; fever that exceeds 101 degrees Fahrenheit. The senior should notify their physician immediately if any of these symptoms are present.

Some pain around the incision and in the chest is expected after surgery, along with itching and perhaps numbness at the incision point. However, if chest pain resembles the level of pain before surgery, or if the senior experiences cracking or popping in the sternum area, contact the doctor immediately.

Some seniors are required to take other medications during their recovery period. Other seniors may have to take them the rest of their lives. Help seniors learn to stay on track with all medications they take to avoid accidental overdose. Discuss multiple medications with the doctor to ensure one does not have an adverse affect when taken with a new drug.

Help the senior take gradual steps to return to normal activity levels with the following in mind:

  • The physician will determine what activity level is safe depending on the senior's specific situation.
  • Lift only objects within the weight limit advised by the physician.
  • Pushing or pulling heavy items should be avoided.
  • Do not lift arms over the shoulders for prolonged periods of time.
  • Use of stairs may be permitted per doctor's orders but should be minimal at first.
  • Take daily walks as directed by the doctor.
  • Adequate rest is essential to a full recovery.

A caregiver's role in assisting a senior after heart surgery is important beyond physical factors of recovery. Twelve weeks of recovery can be challenging and lonely for a senior. Companionship helps keep the senior's spirits up and can prevent possible post-surgery blues. A happy state of mental health also contributes towards successful recovery from heart surgery.


References:
Heart surgery recovery. Retrieved on December 27, 2012 from clevelandclinic.org/heart/disorders/recovery_ohs.aspx.
Heart attack in seniors. Retrieved on December 27, 2012 from
aplaceformom.com/senior-care-resources/articles/heart-attack.
Congestive heart failure. Retrieved on December 24, 2012 from 
hopkinsmedicine.org/heart_vascular_institute/conditions_treatments/conditions/congestive_heart_failure.html.

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