Caring for Seniors After Heart Surgery

Posted by Heart Hugger on Apr 10, 2023 10:00:00 AM

caregiver holding patient's hand on bed

When seniors need heart surgery, their children or other caregivers can have a lot of questions. It can be scary and overwhelming to start planning for that process. However, there are ways to overcome these uncertainties and approach heart surgery and post-surgery care with more confidence.

Here's what you need to know if you're caring for a senior after heart surgery.

First Steps: Asking Heart Surgery Questions

When preparing for heart surgery, one of your most important jobs as a caregiver is to ask the right questions. This helps you understand what to expect, making it easier for you and the patient to navigate the process.

Here are a few key questions to ask of both the doctor and the senior you'll be caring for:

What to Ask The Doctor

  • "What is this surgery?"

The doctor should give you specific details so you can understand why the heart surgery is taking place and what the procedure is called. This gives you helpful background that you can use to do your own research if you'd like.

  • "What is the process?"

Understanding the heart surgery process makes it easier to build a caretaking plan. You should understand what kind of incisions to expect and where they'll be, how long the patient will need to stay in the hospital, how many medications you'll need to keep track of, and more.

  • "What can I expect afterward?"

The doctor should give you all the details on post-surgery care, but it doesn't hurt to ask your own questions. Finding out what to expect immediately after the surgery and as the patient heals will make the whole process a little easier.

  • "What should I look out for?"

It's important to know the signs of an issue, whether physical or emotional, when caring for someone after heart surgery. Ask the doctor what to look for and what you should do in case of a problem.

What to Ask The Patient

  • "What do you want to know?"

Although the patient is free to ask their own questions, it's sometimes helpful for you to make sure they've properly communicated all their concerns or uncertainties. Just make sure you share all these questions with the doctor.

  • "What are you most worried about?"

While it can be stressful to talk about worries, you need to know what the patient is going through if you want to help. In some cases, you can get the doctor's help to reassure the patient; in other cases, all you can provide is support and understanding--but either way, this is an important step.

  • "How can I help?"

The patient may not know exactly what they need or want--and, in fact, you may need to do things they don't ask for. However, asking this question makes it clear that you want to approach the process with their comfort and expectations in mind.

What To Do After Heart Surgery

When the surgery is over, your job really begins. Here are a few tips when caring for seniors after heart surgery:

Study The Instructions

There will be a lot of instructions for post-surgery care, what the patient can and can't eat, and even how to breathe and cough. While the doctor will likely walk you and the patient through everything, keeping a copy of these instructions is important so you can study the details and refer back if necessary.

Prepare The Home

Before the patient comes home, it's important for you to make a few preparations. For example, you'll need to set up a bed, ideally on the first floor--whether in your guest room or at the patient's house. You also want to clear walkways and find walkers or canes to make things as easy as possible.

Be Patient

Healing after heart surgery is a journey. You should understand how long every step of the process is expected to take, but don't worry if things go a little more slowly than planned. Every patient heals at their own pace--just make sure they're following their doctor's orders and seem to be making progress,

Care for Yourself, Too

Remember that you'll likely experience stress, worry, frustration, and other negative emotions during the process. This is normal and perfectly OK. It's important to take care of yourself emotionally and physically while helping a senior recover from heart surgery; after all, you're part of this journey too.


Although heart surgery can be nerve-wracking for seniors and caretakers alike, there are plenty of ways to learn about the process and prepare for every step. As long as you know what to expect and stay in contact with the patient's doctor, you can get through the healing process more confidently.

Contact us today to learn more about heart surgery recovery and support solutions like HeartHugger.

Heart Hugger

Written by Heart Hugger

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