A care partner is anyone who helps someone else manage their health. In terms of heart failure specifically, a care partner is anyone who is invested in supporting someone’s journey toward heart success. This could be a child, parent, sibling, friend, church or community member. And it doesn’t have to be a full-time job, either.
A “care partnership” is a two-way relationship that requires proactive communication and boundaries between everyone involved and often paves the way for success in managing conditions like heart failure. A program called Hear Your Heart aims to engage care partners of women living with heart failure in conversations about their critical role in supporting the women in their lives.
When it comes to managing heart failure, women — especially Black and Latina women — face significant challenges in getting the best care possible. Hear Your Heart also empowers women with heart failure, particularly Black and Latina women, to prioritize their own health and ask for the support or resources they need to feel their best while managing the condition. Cuide Su Corazón — a Spanish-language version of the program — has recently launched to ensure valuable educational content is accessible to the larger Spanish-speaking audience.
Lupe, a woman diagnosed with heart failure about a year ago, shares her firsthand experience working with her care partners. In addition to her doctors, her team includes her children, mother and even an online support group.
Three key takeaways for care partners:
1. Women don’t have to suffer in silence. Whether it is due to busy schedules, familial commitments or culture-based norms or stigmas, many women, especially Black and Latina women, tend to deprioritize their own health in favor of caring for those around them. It’s time to turn that around.
“Since my diagnosis, I have come to understand and appreciate just how important it is to take care of myself for so many reasons, with one being so that I can continue to be there for my children and grandchildren,” shared Lupe. A critical part of being a care partner is encouraging whom you are caring for to look out for themselves and to keep their heart health top of mind. This may mean helping them prepare for appointments, working toward exercise goals together or encouraging them to join an online community with others in a similar situation.
“Since my diagnosis, I have come to understand and appreciate just how important it is to take care of myself for so many reasons, with one being so that I can continue to be there for my children and grandchildren.”
2. Encourage those living with heart failure to accept support in all forms. Though asking for support may be difficult for some, particularly those who are used to being the care partners, it can make a big difference in managing heart failure. That’s why, as a care partner, it’s important to be there — both emotionally and physically. For women living with heart failure, accepting help goes hand in hand with learning to care for themselves and it doesn’t have to be as daunting as they may think.
“One thing that has helped me is open, two-way communication with my children,” Lupe shared. “At first, I didn’t want my children to worry about me but I’ve learned that keeping them up to date on my progress, appointments, exercise and any new medications allows them to make sure I’m staying on track and makes it easier for them to ask questions or help me whenever I may need it. Though it’s been a transition, I’ve learned to lean on them just as they’ve leaned on me throughout their lives.”
Similarly to Lupe’s children, it’s important for care partners to check in on the women in their lives and offer to help them with tasks — both big and small. These tasks can be mutually beneficial, such as joining them on a walk, going grocery shopping together or simply holding a venting session.
3. Women can continue living their lives and plan for the future with heart failure. Though a heart failure diagnosis will create many changes in a woman’s life, it’s important that those around her remind her that this isn’t the end of their story; rather, it’s the beginning of a new, unexpected chapter of life.
For Lupe, this new chapter means appreciating the little things and making adjustments in her life. However, she is careful to do so in a way that keeps her true to herself and her Latina culture. “In my family, food is love. I’ve had to adjust my diet but I’m learning to do so in a way that still makes food feel like home, and my care team is with me every step of the way, trying new foods and recipes together.” Though the future might look different for others, here’s a reminder that, with the right people, the future can still be what you make of it.
“In my family, food is love. I’ve had to adjust my diet but I’m learning to do so in a way that still makes food feel like home, and my care team is with me every step of the way, trying new foods and recipes together.”
In a successful care partnership, it’s key for those involved to openly discuss the impact that heart failure may have on them, while reminding one another that they will get through this together. Neither person has to face the changes and challenges alone and can help each other overcome barriers and celebrate wins.
To learn more about what it means to be a care partner and to download helpful resources, visit HFHearYourHeart.com.
This article was paid for by Boehringer Ingelheim and Lilly and created by HuffPost’s Branded Creative Team. HuffPost editorial staff did not participate in the creation of this content.