Caregiving for someone with atrial fibrillation
Know what to expect with this common heart rhythm condition and get tips to prevent caregiver burnout.
If you’re a caregiver for a family member or friend with atrial fibrillation (AFib), a common heart rhythm disorder, you have an important role in helping your loved one manage the condition.
AFib 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. You may need to monitor your loved one’s medications and give reminders to take the appropriate doses.
If your loved one is taking the blood thinner warfarin (Jantovin), he or she will need regular blood tests to monitor its effects. You may also need to take him or her for other lab tests or doctor’s appointments.
You may need to adjust your loved one’s diet if he or she is taking warfarin. Certain foods and beverages rich in vitamin K can make warfarin less effective in preventing blood clots. Avoid large amounts of foods high in vitamin K, including:
- Brussels sprouts
- Green tea
- Mustard greens
Also, cranberry juice and alcohol can increase warfarin’s effects, making bleeding more likely.
Your loved one’s condition might require close monitoring. You should watch for signs of stroke, heart failure or bleeding from blood thinners. Ask your loved one’s doctor for specific warning signs you should watch for.
Your support might help your loved one live a healthier life. But being a caregiver for someone with atrial fibrillation (or any health condition) takes time and energy. Caregiving can disrupt your schedule and cause you stress.
Follow these seven tips to prevent caregiver burnout.
- 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.
- Ask for and accept help. Ask family and friends for help if you need it, and specify ways others can help you. If help is offered, accept it.
- Learn about atrial fibrillation. Knowing the basics about your loved one’s condition can help you understand what he or she 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 allows you to share your experiences with others who understand your situation.
- Resources for caregivers: How should I care for myself? American Heart Association. https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/caregiver-support/resources-for-caregivers Accessed April 29, 2021.
- Beaser AD, et al. Management of patients with atrial fibrillation. JAMA. 2019; doi:10.1001/jama.2019.1264.
- Atrial fibrillation: Also known as A-fib, AF. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/atrial-fibrillation. Accessed April 29, 2021.
- Hull RD, et al. Warfarin and other VKAs: Dosing and adverse effects. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed April 29, 2021.
- Stridsman M, et al. Patients’ experiences of living with atrial fibrillation: A mixed methods study. Cardiology Research and Practice. 2019; doi:10.1155/2019/6590358.