Having an LVAD doesn’t just change life for recipients. It changes life for LVAD recipients’ friends and family, too. If someone you love has an LVAD or is considering an LVAD, you probably have many questions about what an LVAD is, and how it affects day to day life.
You may also be feeling mixed emotions— fear about the surgery and recovery, anxiety about the impact on your everyday life and relief that your loved one could start feeling dramatically better. All of these feelings are normal—and you’re not alone. Most important of all, remember that while having an LVAD is a major life change, it is, for most recipients and their loved ones, a change for the better.
Every LVAD recipient needs a strong support system—including a dedicated caregiver. A caregiver can be a spouse, partner, sibling, parent, child or friend. As a caregiver, you will receive thorough training on how to use and maintain your loved one’s LVAD equipment and how to change the dressings around the driveline exit site (the place in the abdomen where the cable from the pump exits the body to connect with the power source). You may need to pass a written and hands-on competency before leaving the hospital. You’ll also need to learn about guidelines for sleeping, bathing, exercising and traveling with an LVAD. Making sure your loved one takes their medications and follows recommended nutrition/diet guidelines may also be part of your role. Visit the Living with an LVAD section for information on all of these topics.
The Community Forums are an excellent way to connect with other caregivers—to hear about their experiences, ask questions and find friendship and support. Some other suggestions for caregivers:
Ask questions—while in the hospital, at follow-up visits, and once you’re back home. You can always call your VAD center if you’re worried or unsure about anything.
Keep a notebook with you at the hospital and bring it with you to follow-up visits to write down information and instructions—even if you think you’ll remember them on your own.
Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Being a caregiver is hard work. It’s important to find ways to take breaks and focus on your own mental and physical help. You’ll be a better caregiver as a result.