Psychological Effects of a Cardiac Rehab Patient #Spring23
How do the psychological aspects of a patient's experience with a cardiac event impact the level of efficiency that one is able to take care and rehabilitate them?
This is an interesting question. I am a physical therapist who works in the hospital with many acute cardiac patients- heart attacks, heart failure, post bypass, etc. I also worked in outpatient cardiac rehab for several years, and have several close friends with heart issues.
There are typically two distinct psychological reactions to a life threatening event like heart problems. One is to deny that there is any problem at all. The other is to be terrified and cautious with everything. In the hospital we often say our heart patients really need some counseling. Unfortunately, there are not enough counselors to go around, so the nurses, therapists and doctors fill in.
Those who deny that they have a problem need lots of education about cardiac risk factors, encouragement for life style changes and we usually have to slow them down and monitor heart response to activity.
The scared patients also need education and lifestyle adjustments but we have to encourage, coax, cajole and sometimes “drag” them out of bed. The more they do, the better they feel, so it gets easier with time. There is a lot of encouragement and reinforcement needed to get them going.
It is common for heart patients to need antidepressants and outside counseling after a life threatening event. Everyone involved watches for depression, anxiety or even suicidal thoughts with these patients- as we do with all patients with life changing events (amputations, strokes, head injuries, spinal cord injuries, etc).
Psychology classes are a vital part of the physical therapy curriculum in schools. Nursing and Doctors also have some. We all understand the mind plays a vital role in recovery. Thanks for asking!
Beth recommends the following next steps:
Comorbidities can be linked through:
chance occurrence between two conditions
overlapping risk factors
one condition results from complications of the other
a third condition causes both conditions
Understanding the relation between the 2 diagnosis will be the therapist's challenge by gently asking questions that lead the patient to self awareness and healing.