I have some questions and need some advice/help. My mother-in-law (MIL), who is 81, stayed with my husband and I for 2 weeks before her heart surgery (artery tear and aneurism) as she was told she couldn't do stairs til after surgery. She had her surgery 10/11 and has been with us since. My questions are how long has recouperation/rehab been for those of you who have had heart surgery and what kind of rehab/exercises do you do and how often?
A physical therapist came to the house for 2 weeks, getting her to do some leg exercises, walking (which she was told to do a bit every hour) and the stairs (was told to do 2X a day). She was doing good for a bit and now she gets very much out of breath on a short walk. She has to stop to catch her breath. I'm afraid to push too much but I also don't want her to sit all day and 'vegetate' (which she seems to prefer to do sometimes). I have had her do stairs in the morning and early evening and use a timer as a reminder to get her to take a 'short' walk (about 10 ft) every hour.
She went back to the surgeon for a follow up appt and I told him about her shortness of breath. He said it shouldn't be happening so he sent her for chest xrays and this Monday she goes for some pumonary tests. I'm actually hoping they find something so they can fix it.
She was very active before the surgery, walking pretty much everywhere she wanted, she'd go out and play bingo weekly and went on various bus trips.
I know it's only been 4 weeks but I'm seeing her go backwards now instead of forward.
Gee, have I been there!! My Mom was 82 when she had open heart surgery (Aortic Valve Replacement in 2000). She too was very active. Walked three miles a day almost every day except Sunday. Mom lost Dad in Sept. 1999 and found herself alone for the first time in her life. She had always had episodes of her heart racing, actually started as a young girl, but had never let that stop her. In February of 2000 she had to have surgery. Immediately after the surgery she wanted to get right back to walking. She was up the very next morning walking the haulway of the hospital and her Doctor was concerned she was pushing a little too hard. He wanted her to return to normal as soon as possible but not so fast.
Unfortunately, Mom quickly found that her strength was not coming back like she had hoped and fell victim to depression. It sapped her strength and made her anxious about the slightest "feeling". She became fearful of everything. Open heart surgery on a slender thin person takes away the cushion around the heart and makes the heartbeat very noticeable to them. They feel every beat very distinctly. Mother actually puts cotton in her ears at night to keep the beats from distrubing her sleep. She became fearful of dying.
She also became very dependent on me and my brother, and we did the wrong thing...... We started by having her spend her nights with us to prevent her from being alone during the night. We thought this would give her some comfort and she would rest better and recover faster. right? WRONG...... It is not a good idea to change a routine of a person who is 82 year old. The quicker the person can get back to their own home, bed, friends, their life, the better for that person. Mom now lives with me and my brother. I keep her for a week and he keeps her for a week. Back and forth. She had a nice home with the many comforts she used to enjoy....but not anymore. She would really like for my brother and I to be at her side every waking minute of the day. She has become very dependant. We helped to make her that way in our efforts to take the best possible care of her. My Mother is a very sweet woman, always kind and so easy to get along with, she is never demanding or mean spirited. If she were any of those things we would really be up the creek.
My advice to you, have her Doctor check her out. Let her know that it is in HER best interest to get back to her normal life as soon as possible and that you will be taking her home. [U]Don't let her believe she is and will always be [/U] SICK. And, for sure ask her Doctor about getting her on a very good pill for depression. I've never known of anyone her age that goes through major surgery who does not benefit from Celexa or Zoloff (both equally good).
No one was/is as shocked as my brother and I about the change in our Mother. We know our mistakes now that it's too late to change them. Mother would have been much happier today if we hadn't helped her too much. We love her so much & she returns that love double fold, but she is not happy.
In the end I know you will do whatever your heart tells you that you must do, but be careful, for her sake and yours.
Thank you very much for your reply. I called her doctor today to find out the results of her chest xray and was told she has alot of fluid in her right lung. That certainly explains why she's been out of breath. Before her surgery and before they found her heart problems, she was in the hospital for difficult breathing and found her to have double pnuemonia.
We are taking her in to the hospital tomorrow and they will put a catheter in to drain the fluid and she will stay overnight. I'm hopeful once this is done, she'll be able to walk without labored breathing. If this does happen, I think I will encourage her to try things at home.
I am starting to see that she is getting 'comfortable' here. I have started making her do little things like taking her breakfast/lunch dishes to the sink. My husband has a tendency to do these things for her but I don't think it's really a 'help' to her.
Hopefully draining the fluid from her lung will help her not only physically but mentally too.
I very much appreciate you sharing your story with me and giving me your tips. I will certainly keep all you've told me in mind.
Sorry to hear about the fluid in your MIL's lung. That certainly explains the laboured breathing.
Sounds like it might be beneficial if you and your husband could arrange a private conversation with her physican. It helped my brother and I when we sat down and asked for a true prognosis on my Mother. Short term and long term. What to look for and how to determine the severiety of a situation. It still comes down to "gut feeling" most of the time.
Recovering from open heart is difficult at any age especially someone in their 80's. I was an otherwise healthy 41 year old active woman when I had my bypass. I was fortunate that I had not had a heart attack before my procedures. (Had a stent before bypass that failed within 3months.) I had absolutely no other health problems and it was a major struggle for me to feel good again. I had no complications like the fluid on the lungs that your MIL has suffered, which by the way can happen again. Try not to be too hard on her! 5 weeks is no time at all to get over bypass. I truly could not say that I felt good again for 2 1/2 years following my bypass. Her body has been through a major major trauma. She is not going to be the same person that she was before surgery. I am not the same! I have suffered slight memory loss, I have to be careful to avoid stressful situations as much as possible and fear is a real concern that is very hard to overcome. When I feel a twinge in my upper body I'm very focused on it and am wondering is it happening all over again. I can't see that ever going away. It's absolutely important that she exercise and do the breathing treatments. A cardiac rehab program at your local hospital might do her good when the doctor says she's able. There she can talk with others who've been through it about her feelings and she can learn alot about how the heart works and why exercise and diet are so important. I felt the need to say something because as a young woman this has been a difficult journey for me and can not imagine how difficult it would be for an 80 year old woman..
Thank you both for your advice and help. MIL had her right lung drained this past weekend and they withdrew 2 litres of fluid. She came home on Monday and was a bit weak. I know she didn't get much sleep in the hospital and the morning she was discharged they gave her 2 Percocets so she wasn't in any pain.
She does seem to be breathing better. She's not huffing and puffing after a short walk anymore. Today we're back to walking every hour and a trip or two up the stairs. She did the stairs today and was breathing fine when she got to the top. So we're making some progress. We're all taking it a day at a time to see how things go.