Stepping into the role of caregiver for someone with peripheral artery disease (PAD) is not without its challenges. That’s why we’ve created a simple guide to make assisting your loved one through treatment, lifestyle changes, and doctor's visits a little bit easier. Remember that your support is important to helping your loved one get on the best possible path to better health.
Learn all you can
Learn more about PAD and what it means for your loved one’s health. PAD isn’t just leg pain—it’s a serious condition with risks for heart attack, stroke, and even limb loss, so the more you know, the better prepared you can be to support them in the months following their diagnosis.
Encourage them to quit smoking
If your loved one smokes, help them quit. If you also smoke, you can support each other by quitting together. It’s the single best thing you can do for your health. Get started by reading these tips to quit smoking.
Be an exercise partner
Most people know that they should be staying active, but for people with PAD, it can be more difficult if even just walking hurts. Encourage your loved one to follow whatever exercise recommendations their healthcare professional has made. Support them even more by joining in—schedule time for the two of you to go for a walk a few times a week or participate in a low-impact activity like gardening. They’ll be even more likely to stick with it! Plus, learn about a supervised exercise program that can help.
Nurture a heart-healthy diet
Switching to a heart-healthy diet is an important lifestyle change that can help your loved one control important risk factors that contribute to the progression of PAD, like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and excess weight. Encourage them to learn about the guidelines from the American Heart Association and, if you’re able, be a partner in heart-healthy eating by preparing recipes together that include lots of fruits, veggies, and lean protein.
Remind them to take medications
It’s important to help your loved one remember to take their medications as prescribed by their healthcare professional. Help them set up reminders on their phone and organize meds with a weekly pill box.
Get them to doctor’s appointments
Your loved one may need help getting to doctor’s appointments, especially if they have trouble moving around or are recovering from surgery. Make sure you know when the appointments are scheduled and make a game plan for the day to get them there on time. Remind them that completing this personalized conversation starter can help the appointment go more smoothly and ensure they get all their questions answered.
Assist after surgery
If your loved one will be undergoing bypass surgery or a stent procedure, it may help to understand what their needs may be when returning home from a hospital stay. In order to heal properly, your loved one may have some physical limitations. This may require you to help out with day-to-day tasks like cooking, cleaning, and driving them to and from doctor’s appointments or other destinations. Encourage your loved one to be open about what is needed and how you can help.
Take care of yourself
Caring for a loved one with a medical condition is not easy. In addition to eating well and getting enough sleep each night, it’s essential to take time out just for you to rest and reset so you can be at your best when you are needed most. Some of these self-care tips may also be helpful in managing stress and anxiety.
Caregivers need support, too!
Reach out and connect with others who are in a caregiving role to share stories, ask questions, and find support. The American Heart Association’s support group for caregivers is a good place to start.