The last thing my client Henry expected last summer was to get the news that his 45-year-old son, Mike, had had a heart attack. Fortunately, Mike was home with his wife when he experienced weakness, sweating, and a crushing chest pain that he described as like getting hit with a baseball bat. He was rushed to the hospital and had two stents surgically placed to open up the blockage in an artery. Other than high blood pressure controlled with medication, Mike hadn’t experienced any other signs of heart trouble before.
“Heart disease runs in the family on my father’s side,” Henry told me during one of our visits. “I guess I’ve just been lucky it skipped over me.” At age 82, Henry had diabetes and some vision loss. As his care manager, I often accompanied him to his medical appointments and helped him manage his medications. Mike and his wife, Loretta, had hired me a year earlier to assist Henry, but now it was Mike who needed help when he came home from the hospital.
“This is a big wake-up call for Mike – for all of us, really,” said Loretta. “You’ve done so much for his dad, I would love for you to be Mike’s care manager also, while he recovers.” Mike and Loretta had twin teenage daughters. Loretta admitted that during the past year of the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown, they had all gained weight and spent far too much time binging on junk food and television. She said they were all going to take control of their health for themselves and to support Mike.
Mike joined a cardiac rehab program at his hospital, which taught him how to manage his risk factors through exercise, nutrition counseling, and other services. And I met with Mike and his family on a regular basis as he began the process of recovering physically and emotionally. The family began working on their health. It wasn’t easy for them to change some unhealthy habits they’d acquired – such as eating fast-food take-out several times a week and barely exercising – but Mike and Loretta took his recovery seriously. Loretta began trying new heart-healthy recipes and the whole family began a walking program. When Henry got wind of this, he was interested too. This was a welcome change, because Henry had long resisted his doctor’s recommendation to exercise.
“I would like to join them some nights,” he said. “It would give me some time with the grandkids too.” Henry lived in the same town as Mike, and Loretta was happy to pick him up for these visits. Sometimes they drove to the mall to do their walk there, as the twins loved to window-shop. Henry told me that at first, he felt ‘rusty’ and had a hard time keeping up. But over time his stamina improved, and he got stronger alongside Mike. Eating a heart-healthy diet and exercising was good for all members of the family. The walking became a routine that brought them all closer.
On the days that Henry was home, he started taking walks through his neighborhood and often found himself socializing with others who had the same idea. It was nice to see Henry’s health and mood improve as a result. It’s never too late to practice heart-healthy habits, and even better when it involves the whole family.
If you or someone in your family are facing aging challenges, please give us a call at 765-341-9295 or email us at Shannon@AgingLifeCareConsultants.com”. We’ll be happy to assist!