Your Parent Needs Heart Care. Now What?
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I grew up in Northampton County. I went to Freedom High School and Hanover Elementary School, close to Lehigh Valley Hospital–Muhlenberg, where I see patients. It’s an honor for me to provide care in the community where I grew up.
Over the years, I’ve cared for and operated on friends of my parents and parents of my friends. Naturally, the relationship I have with these people made it easier for them to talk with me during a difficult time.
Like most people, however, you probably don’t have a friend who is a cardiologist or heart surgeon. As a result, when your parent or loved one needs heart care, you may feel overwhelmed and unsure of what to do next.
My patients’ family members are just as important to me as my patients. That’s why I want to ease your anxiety by sharing five things you can do if a parent needs heart care or heart surgery.
1. Get educated. It’s scary when a parent isn’t feeling well. But the more you know about what your parent is experiencing and the care he or she needs, the less overwhelmed you’ll feel. Still, be careful. Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet. Rely on your doctor for reliable information.
2. Prepare for the doctor’s visit. Write these things down and bring the list to your parent’s appointment:
Symptoms – I want to know how your parent’s life has changed since symptoms began. Remember: All symptoms are not the result of old age, which means all symptoms are relevant.
Medications – If your parent is enrolled in MyLVHN, their medications are listed in their account. If you’re a primary caregiver for your parent, you may receive proxy (approved guest) access to view portions of his or her medical information. Here’s how. If your parent is not enrolled, learn about creating a MyLVHN account.
Family history of heart disease – Many heart conditions are hereditary.
Questions – No question or issue is too trivial. Document them as you think of them, because you’ll never remember all your questions during your visit.
3. Accompany your parent. During a doctor’s visit, patients may feel overwhelmed and have difficulty processing what’s being said. That’s why, with the patient’s permission, I encourage one or two family members to be in the exam room to join in the discussion.
4. Listen to your parent’s wishes. This is especially important when considering surgery. While we’ll have a group discussion about treatment options, the decision to have surgery must be made by the patient. No one should be forced to have surgery.<
5. Be engaged throughout the process. If your parent is in the hospital, participate in discussions about the next steps in their care. If your parent had surgery, make arrangements for someone to be withhim or her at home during recovery.