Caregiving for someone with atrial fibrillation

If you're a caregiver for a family member or friend with atrial fibrillation, a common heart rhythm disorder, you have an important role in helping your loved one manage the condition.

Atrial fibrillation can increase the risk of blood clots, which can lead to strokes. Your loved one may need to take blood-thinning medications to reduce the risk.

It's important to take these medications exactly as prescribed. Anyone taking warfarin (Coumadin, Jantovin), one type of blood-thinning medication, needs regular blood tests to monitor its effects.

You may need to monitor your loved one's medications and give reminders to take the appropriate doses. And you may also need to take him or her for lab tests or doctor's appointments.

Your loved one might need help with other activities of daily life that are difficult because of the atrial fibrillation. And the condition might require you to monitor him or her and watch for indications of stroke, heart failure or bleeding from blood thinners.

Your support might help your loved one live a more normal, healthier life. But being a caregiver for someone with atrial fibrillation takes time and energy. Caregiving can disrupt your schedule and cause you stress. It's vital that you not neglect your own health.

  • Take care of yourself. Eat a heart-healthy diet and stay active to keep yourself healthy.
  • Set aside time for yourself. Do something fun, such as watching a comedy movie, going to a park, reading a book, gardening or participating in other hobbies you enjoy.
  • Notice signs of depression or stress. If you feel depressed or stressed, don't hesitate to get professional help.
  • Get support. Talk to family and friends and get social support. Ask for help if you need it, and specify ways others can help you. Having family support can help you cope with being a caregiver.
  • Learn about atrial fibrillation. Learning about the condition can help you understand what your loved one is going through and why he or she needs your support. Your knowledge of the condition can help you provide good care, be an advocate for your loved one and participate in treatment decisions.
  • Consider technology. Use technology, such as text messaging, smartphone applications or calendar alerts, for medication reminders.
  • Join a support group. Being in a support group with people with atrial fibrillation or other heart conditions and their caregivers gives you a forum to share your experiences with others who understand your situation.
April 22, 2016 See more In-depth