Hearing from your doctor that you have “heart failure” can be daunting and scary. You may think your heart is about to stop working and there’s nothing that can be done. What it really means is that your heart isn’t working as well as it should be. If you’re on the receiving end of this diagnosis - have heart, get educated and take action.
To start, there are different types of heart failure and they require different treatments. It’s important to get a clear understanding of what type you have and what treatments apply. Treatments may be any combination of medications, lifestyle changes and devices or surgical procedures.
You will likely be working with several healthcare providers that will make up your healthcare team. Your team may include: primary care doctor, cardiologist, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, physical and occupational therapists, dieticians, case managers and pharmacists. It’s important to develop good relationships with all your healthcare team members. Talk openly and honestly. Keep them informed about symptoms or changes in your condition so they can help you. Remember, you and your caregivers are also essential members of your healthcare team.
Good communication with your healthcare team can help you get the most out of your doctors' visits. Knowing what questions to ask and understanding what your healthcare provider is saying can help you feel confident that you're getting the best care.
Here are some tips for communicating with your healthcare team:
- Be prepared: take to your appointment a list of all medicines you're taking. Make a list of your current symptoms. Describe how you feel and describe any changes in your condition. Write down your concerns and questions.
- Ask questions: making the right decisions for you starts with asking questions. Take notes or record your conversation so that you can review the information later. It’s often helpful to take someone with you to be an extra pair of eyes and ears and to help with notetaking.
- Clarify what you hear: if the information you receive from your healthcare team is unclear, ask them to use simpler words or explain it in a different way. Then repeat what you heard back to them in your own words to make sure you’ve understood correctly.
Although living with a chronic condition like heart failure can be challenging, many people learn to manage the condition and enjoy full and meaningful lives. Living your best life lies in your hands. Educate yourself, take charge of the things you can control, and lean into the support of your loved ones and healthcare team.
For a detailed list of questions to ask at your doctor’s appointments, contact Cathy Abreu at 908-528-3977 or [email protected].