Providing care for someone with heart failure may involve emotional and practical support. This may include actively listening, managing medications, monitoring symptoms, and encouraging healthy habits.

People who receive a diagnosis of congestive heart failure may have to make significant changes in their lives. This may include needing more assistance from someone to help with daily tasks.

If you’re a partner, family member, or friend caretaking for a person with heart failure, you may have questions about how you can best provide support.

Keep reading to learn about 10 tips to help care for someone living with heart failure.

Heart failure is a condition where a person’s heart isn’t able to pump out enough blood to the rest of the body. This condition requires a treatment plan that could include medications, lifestyle changes, and doctors’ appointments.

As a caregiver, you can ask to attend doctors’ appointments and to be included in discussions about treatment. During these appointments, you can:

  • listen to the doctors’ information
  • take notes so the information is available later
  • raise any concerns, symptoms, and questions the person you’re caring for may have
  • talk about issues you feel may not be addressed

Treatment decisions affect your loved one’s health and your caretaking role. Speak with them about how often they want you to check in on them. It’s important to listen when you ask.

Getting regular physical activity is a great way to help prevent heart failure from getting worse. It can help reduce fatigue, boost energy levels, and strengthen the heart.

A 2019 review also found that getting 10–30 minutes of exercise was enough to help boost a person’s mood. This can be beneficial for someone living with heart failure, especially if they’re feeling stressed or anxious.

You can help support your loved one to get active by:

  • speaking with their doctor about a physical activity plan
  • finding out which physical activities they enjoy best, and joining them
  • going walking, biking, or swimming together
  • helping them with physical tasks, such as gardening and doing the groceries
  • suggesting a supervised rehabilitation program, if recommended by their doctor

Your loved one may be taking medications for heart failure to help manage their symptoms and prevent disease progression.

You can help support your loved one by:

  • having a medication record-keeping system, such as a schedule
  • using a checklist to keep track of the medication, doses, and time administered
  • learning about each drug, such as reading through the drug information pamphlets
  • speaking with their healthcare team about specific guidance

You may also want to keep a journal that includes questions, any changes made to the medications, or side effects. Using a smartphone app, such as My Cardiac Coach from the American Heart Association (AHA), is another option.

You may need to assist your loved one with monitoring and managing any symptoms of heart failure, such as:

  • shortness of breath
  • fatigue
  • leg swelling (edema)
  • feeling faint, lightheaded, or dizzy

You can help them monitor their metrics and any symptoms by:

  • weighing on a scale
  • taking their blood pressure
  • measuring their heart rate
  • asking about how they’re feeling

Speak with a doctor about tools you can use to measure your loved one’s heart rate and blood pressure at home.

It’s important to get medical attention if your loved one gains more than 3 pounds in 2 days, or 5 pounds in 1 week.

Providing care to another person can sometimes make it hard on you.

The AHA recommends the following tips to help you look after yourself:

  • take a 10-minute walk
  • maintain a heart-healthy diet
  • take time to do something you love on your own
  • socialize
  • find ways to laugh, such as watching TV
  • stay connected with others

A chronic condition comes with challenges — for the person experiencing it as well as their friends, family, and caregivers. Support groups are a way to feel connected, to meet other people who share similar experiences, and to help prevent isolation and loneliness.

You and your loved one may be able to connect with people online or in person. The AHA’s support network can help you get started.

If you’re experiencing too much strain or your loved one needs more support, ask for help.

Consider reaching out to friends, family members, and other people in your community. Remember, they may want to be helpful, but they might not be sure what you need. Let them know what you want help with and how they can help.

This may include making a list of tasks that you could delegate to someone else, such as grocery shopping, cleaning, or preparing food.

For longer periods or more involved tasks, speak with your loved one’s healthcare team about respite care or having someone at home regularly.

Eating a heart-healthy diet can make a big difference in managing heart failure. Here’s a table of foods to eat and avoid to help improve cardiovascular health, according to the AHA:

Foods to eatFoods to avoid
• fruits and vegetables
• whole grains
• unprocessed foods
• plant-based protein sources
• lean cuts of animal protein
• liquid plant oils
• ultra-processed foods
• foods high in sodium
• added sugars
• saturated and trans fats
• alcohol, if you drink

Speak with a healthcare professional or registered dietician if you and your loved one aren’t sure where to start. They can help develop a nutrition plan that suits your loved one’s needs.

Providing and finding emotional support is critical when caring for someone with heart failure. It’s estimated that 1 in 5 people living with heart failure have depression.

If your loved one is feeling anxious or depressed, speak with their healthcare team about counseling. A counselor could provide them with tips to help manage negative emotions, thought patterns, and behaviors.

Making lifestyle changes to manage the symptoms of heart failure takes a lot of work. When you notice that your loved one is doing a good job following their treatment plan, exercising, eating right, or practicing other self-care essentials, let them know. You’ll be encouraging them and acknowledging their efforts.

What is the life expectancy of a person with congestive heart failure?

The life expectancy of someone living with heart failure depends on several factors, such as age, type of heart failure, and medications they may be taking. A 2019 review found that the 5-year survival rate was 60%, while the 10-year survival rate was 34%. The authors note that survival rates have increased drastically since 1970.

What activities should be avoided with heart failure?

According to the British Heart Foundation, your loved one should avoid heavy weightlifting and holding their breath. Swimming and exercises that use their whole body, such as planks and push-ups, can also be dangerous. Speak with your loved one’s healthcare team to develop the best physical activity plan for them.

Providing care and support to someone living with heart failure can take time and understanding.

Remember that you don’t need to do it all on your own. Partnering with your loved one’s healthcare team, connecting with other caregivers, and leaning on friends and family can make a difference.