A heart attack changes the lives of both seniors and their caregivers. If your loved one has had a heart attack, it's essential to understand the medications and lifestyle changes necessary for a successful recovery. According to the American Heart Association, over 1 million people in the U.S. have heart attacks each year, and about half of them survive. Fortunately, because of advances in coronary surgery and patient care, seniors who survive a heart attack can enjoy a healthy, active life for years to come.
What can you expect when your loved one returns home after a heart attack? Depending on the severity of the heart attack and the damage to the heart, recovery and return to everyday activities may be relatively quick. Some patients are able to go back to everyday activities one to three weeks following the heart attack. Others need more time to recover, either in a hospital setting or at home with family and nursing care. Seniors over the age of 65 may need eight weeks or more to fully recover from a heart attack, as they are more prone to complications and often less active than younger patients.
"After a heart attack, medication is probably the most important thing," says Dr. Gerald Fletcher, a Preventative Cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic in Florida. However, because of the cost of prescription drugs or a failure to take medication regularly, many seniors don't get the proper dosages – with serious consequences. "Frequently, people who don't understand the importance of medications are back in the hospital for heart failure," says Dr. Fletcher.
Medications for heart attack patients include statins, ACE inhibitors, beta blockers and aspirin. The amount of medication needed by a patient varies, and as a caregiver you should educate yourself about these drugs, their side effects and interactions, and the proper dosages.