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Lipitor (Atorvastatin)

You can’t love someone else unless you love yourself first. And you can’t help someone else unless you have the physical and emotional capacity to do so. Therefore, before dealing with how a spouse can help a patient with his or her recovery, we have to deal with the problems of the spouse.
“What?!” you might say in amazement. “No one has ever asked how I’m doing.” “No one cares about me.” “It’s always him.” “I love him, but . . .” Don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed if those statements could be your very own quotes. It’s natural to feel that way.
In fact, it’s even natural to be angry and resentful that your spouse had the heart attack in the first place. It’s “ruined” your life. All those plans you had. You were just about ready to start really enjoying yourselves. Maybe the kids have finally gone and now there was going to be some time for yourself. Now it’s all ruined.
Well, let’s not say ruined, OK? Let’s say that your plans have been postponed for a while.
Next, don’t feel guilty about the heart attack itself. Some patients can be truly vicious at this time in their lives, lashing out at those around them, making them feel as though it was their fault that they had the heart attack to begin with.
Let’s put that argument away right off the bat. Heart disease, culminating in heart attack or surgery, is the result of years of deterioration beginning in childhood. There is the family history of the disease. There are the contributing factors outside of our control including diabetes and thyroid dysfunction. And there are the controllable risk factors including high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels, cigarette smoking, overweight and sedentary lifestyle. Those are the things responsible for your spouse’s heart disease, not you! Never forget that!
Just as you didn’t cause your spouse’s heart disease in the first place, you’re not going to make it go away. Only the patient can do that. Yes, with considerable effort and lifestyle modifications as discussed in this book, heart disease can be stopped and even reversed. For most patients, heart disease can become a thing of the past, with a life free of fear of another occurrence. But you can’t do that for your spouse. You can help. You can facilitate. You can encourage. But you can’t do it for him or her. And you can’t force the patient to do it for himself or herself.
Don’t lay guilt on yourself. Don’t believe you are capable of more than is truly possible. Moreover, don’t become a nag. Making the patient’s life miserable by never-ending comments on diet, exercise, medications and so forth will just lead to marital strife. Neither of you needs that.
Certain patients seem bound and determined to let heart disease “finish them off. They refuse to change their lives one iota. They eat high-fat foods, never exercise, lead stressful lives without ever relaxing, smoke cigarettes and refuse to take medications. If you happen to be married to or involved with such a person, you must start planning for a future alone.
It may be morbid to say, but estate planning should be one of your priorities. Make sure the life insurance bills are paid up. Make sure you understand the household finances. Start living a life of your own, so it won’t be as traumatic when being alone becomes a reality.
But regardless of your spouse’s attitudes and willingness to make a full cardiac recovery, and even though you’re willing to help every step of the way, you still have your own life and health to consider, even during the earliest stages of the patient’s convalescence. You can’t sacrifice yourself entirely. In fact, that can be self-defeating and ultimately you’ll come to resent your spouse for it.
Here are some strategies for coping with the inevitable stresses in the coming weeks and months.
Maintain your own health. You’ve got to stay healthy and strong for your spouse’s sake and for your own sake. Letting stress cause you to begin smoking again would be a huge mistake. Food can sometimes be used as consolation; be careful not to allow yourself to gain weight in the process. Maintain your own exercise schedule, both for physical fitness and as a way to deal with stress.
Pay attention to grooming. This is not some movie tragedy in which you’re playing the suffering victim, looking haggard and worn, with no makeup, hair in disarray and clothes crumpled and soiled. Give yourself the gift of good grooming. Keep your hair styled and your make-up well done. Dress stylishly as always. Don’t ignore the little details. Maintaining pride in your appearance will help you to keep things in perspective, and will help keep you from feeling insignificant or unimportant.
Make time for yourself. Despite the added demands on your time, schedule a little space for yourself. Your spouse can survive an hour or two without you very easily. Go out for a facial and a manicure. See a movie. Take a long walk through the park. Even if there are things you could just as easily do at home, such as reading a book, leave the house for a while. Go to the library to read that book, for example.
You need to have some time on your own, time when the phone can’t ring and your spouse can’t make a request of some sort. Do so regularly, perhaps even every day.
Believe this or not, your spouse will appreciate the time alone as well! Many patients start to feel like their every move is being monitored, and they resent it. Being left alone can be a breath of fresh air for them as well. Maybe there’s a video your spouse has been wanting to watch, but hasn’t because you don’t share his tastes. Rent the video for him, and then go out to see a movie you’d enjoy.
Keep in touch with your friends. This one comes under the category of self-sacrifice and how to avoid it. Many spouses feel guilty about having friends visit, or going to visit them, during the recovery period. Having a good friend or friends can be a wonderful aspect of your own therapy. Yes, give them a progress report, but then talk about the things you’d normally discuss.
Continue your own job or career. Sure, you’ll probably want to take some time off to take care of your spouse during the first few weeks of recovery. But you have your own life to lead as well, and sacrificing a job or jeopardising your career isn’t the thing to do. Now, you may ask who’s going to do all those things you’ve been doing for your spouse? Get someone else to do some of the tasks that you can’t handle once you’ve returned to work.
If you stay home, you’ll lose income. So why not take that income and pay someone to come into the house while you’re gone? Every community has services available for just such circumstances. Often the person is a nurse, or has some training in caring for post-heart attack or post-surgery patients, and will also do some shopping and cooking.
In many cases, it’s financially expedient to pay such a person, resulting in a positive balance. But even if it’s a negative balance, consider the benefits to your own well-being as well as the future of your job or career.
Keep a sense of humour. Laughter is the best medicine both for the spouse and the patient. Tell a joke. Rent a funny video. Tape a comedy rerun on late-night television. Keep laughing; it can keep you from crying.
Manage your own stress levels. Remember that recovery is just as stressful for the spouse as for the patient, and maybe even more so. The same techniques that can help the patient can help you. Read and practise some of the suggestions in chapter 4.
Don’t deny your own needs. Consider yourself a full partner in the recovery process. As such you’re entitled to all the privileges of your relationship as well as the obligations. If you have an itch on your back, it’s perfectly all right to ask your spouse to scratch it. If you have an opinion, voice it. If you have sexual yearnings, let them be known and express yourself. Sex is not taboo. Read chapter 7.
Many women resent the fact that they’re expected to change their own lives and habits and tastes just because the spouse happens to have heart disease. Diet can be a big problem for some. Certainly, there are a lot of advantages in making the lifestyle modifications a family affair. And the low-fat, low-cholesterol diet that’s best for the heart patient is really a healthful diet that’s advised for all men and women. But you may not have to be as stringent.
In my own case, I haven’t eaten a single egg yolk since the second bypass in 1984. But my wife’s cholesterol level is perfectly normal. So when we’re in a restaurant, she has the poached egg and I have the egg substitute.
I don’t personally resent her eating those eggs, although now and then I wish I could have one. But if your spouse makes a big fuss about it, then just make a point of going out for breakfast or brunch once or twice a week and indulge your tastes. And don’t feel guilty about it.
Seek your own counselling. Sometimes having a good friend serves to get things off your chest and to put things into perspective. But sometimes it takes a professional to help you cope. Get the help you need. Perhaps you can talk with a clergyman. Maybe the hospital has a counsellor you could schedule some time with. There may be support groups for cardiac spouses, with people who have gone through the same things and are willing to share their experiences and insights. Or perhaps your doctor can suggest a good professional counsellor with training in family matters.

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