Did life change irrevocably following the Sudden Cardiac Arrest?
Not just for the person who spent the days or weeks in hospital, but for you… the family member or friend, who may have also had the task of performing CPR, dialling 999 or hanging on for news from the hospital.
Then as life resumes some sort of normality where the person returns home with a confusing bundle of meds and a series of outpatients appointments and you try to ‘get back on’, grateful that the person is home, but with an array of emotions which can feel overwhelming at times.
Hopefully, this article can provide some explanation and reassurance that whatever you are experiencing is ‘normal’ (whatever normal means!) with some tips and strategies to help you move forward.
Have you considered that you fall into the category of being a carer?
“Don’t call me that – I’m the husband/wife/partner/child/parent/cousin/friend/neighbour – we got together for sickness and in health, or this is what friends do for each other, or they would do it for me”.
However, can you drop everything and disappear off to a sunnier climate for a weekend?
Does your disappearing for a few days (or being struck down with the lurgy) mean that another adult would struggle to cope, as you do lots of the remembering ‘this and that’, arranging meds and appointments, providing the emotional and physical support, taking on some more of the daily routines…?
A carer incidentally isn’t just about older people or dementia.
It applies to any age and physical health and emotional health – heart disease, cancer, strokes, depression, complex mental health, drug or alcohol issues – and people living in your home, or in their own home and you visit, or in supported living/residential care.
If you fit into the role of carer, then it is even more important that you do all you can to keep yourself in tip-top condition both physically and emotionally, because if you burn out, then life can get difficult, for both of you, within a shorter time frame.
If this is you…
- Speak to your GP and get it recorded on your file that you are a family carer. If nothing else, when you ring up for an appointment, you may get squeezed in a bit quicker (applied to life before covid, but presume it’s the same!). The GP should do a Carers Assessment which can tap into other types of support for you. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/social-care-and-support-guide/support-and-benefits-for-carers/carer-assessments/
- Organisations such as Carers Trust, and Carers UK offer emotional support plus guidance around benefits, or advice when you run into difficulties with support networks etc. There is also Citizens Advice.
This is slightly tongue in cheek, but the person has had a stay in the hospital, rested in bed, had nurses/doctors on call and returns home on the road to recovery.
You, on the other hand, may have been stressed and worried, not sleeping as well, not grabbing all of your normal meals, been waiting on the end of the phone and are exhausted before ‘the person’ walks through the door.
Now, they are home, you are perhaps more aware of what the person is doing – are they still OK, they haven’t made a noise in a while, will I need to dial 999 again today, and then add to this – your sleeping pattern may have deteriorated even further now they are at home.
Tips for you
- Get yourself some support from friends and family – even if it’s just a phone call to let off some steam, or having a weekly cup of tea in the café. Try to resist the urge to say “I’m ok” but tell them if you are having a bad day
- If the survivor was the one who normally dealt with the practical stuff of life, can you get a neighbour or relative to help with those tasks, or pay someone to come in? Ask yourself (and the survivor) – does that task really need to be done this month (just because they would have done it by now) or is it ok to wait a while?
- Would some counselling help? Cardiac arrests can be hugely traumatic so speaking to a professional to help you process the events can help you manage any feelings of stress, anxiety, low mood, anger, guilt or overwhelm. As a member of COS UK or SCA UK, you may be able to get some free counselling sessions.
- Did you know there are 168 hours in a week? You need a bit of time for yourself. Ask yourself – What do I need? What helps you remain physically and mentally fit? Look at what you did for yourself before the event? It is important to have some time for yourself – go for a run, switch off your phone, have a long bath, have a sleep, sit and read a magazine.
- If you have a physical health concern, get it checked out. Don’t just ignore it and think you will deal with it next month. If you aren’t feeling 100%, then your stress levels will build even quicker.
- If the survivor is more physically frail, then look at practicalities around protecting your health and your back. If you know that a professional carer wouldn’t do the lifting and pulling, then don’t do it yourself! Get advice on grab rails or OT-type equipment.
- Trust your own feelings – don’t dismiss them if you feel run down. You won’t be the first person to hit a bit of a brick wall. Seek support. Try to find someone with who you can talk honestly about your feelings.
- Learn to meditate or tap into resources like Calm, Insight Timer and Headspace. Being able to think clearer and calmer makes all the difference to your stress and energy levels
Counsellor and hypnotherapist.
You know when you look back at your life and you can spot the points when it all changed for YOU? I talk to my clients about the ups and downs of the roller-coaster of life! The highs and lows where something happened and then you weren’t the same person as before. It can be the point when you decided to change direction or the point when you started to feel or act in a different way. This could be something small that happened when you were a kid or it could be a huge event from last week. Either way – you are not the person you were. Life… Live it, Love it. (and if you aren’t – then do something about it).
I’m based in South Essex and work in private practice and Basildon Hospital working with Cardiac patients as part of rehab services and in Southend Hospital working with cancer patients, as part of the Macmillan services