Facing Your Future
A heart failure diagnosis takes some getting used to. As you try to understand and accept what it means to have heart failure, you will probably feel a range of emotions. Your outlook on the future may also change, depending on your prognosis. Heart failure can be mild or severe, and people respond differently to treatment. For some people, heart failure symptoms are reversible with proper treatment; for others, symptoms get worse over time.
Given the uncertainty of your diagnosis, it’s natural - and even healthy - to grieve for yourself. Managing your feelings about heart failure is an important aspect of taking care of yourself. The emotional stages you may expect after a diagnosis of heart failure are described below.
Your Initial Reaction
Your initial reaction may be shock, disbelief, denial, or numbness. For the first few months, you may have a hard time acknowledging your condition. It’s tough to be told you have heart failure - it’s a new and unwelcome companion to your life.
Adjusting to Your Condition
For 3-12 months after your diagnosis, you may experience preoccupation, fear, anxiety, anger, or hopelessness. During this time, you may struggle to integrate new routines - and a new sense of responsibility - into your daily life. Yet from questions of “why me?” and “what if?”, you will probably move gradually toward more acceptance of your condition.
New Habits Become Routine
Finally, when new habits become routine and your understanding of heart failure improves, you’ll probably begin to feel more peaceful about your diagnosis. You may get satisfaction from the adjustments you’ve made in your life, and feel new resolve and hope about the future.
Throughout these emotional stages, be patient with yourself. Adjusting to life with heart failure isn’t easy, but many people have learned to accept their diagnosis and lead lives filled with a renewed sense of purpose and hope. With time, support, and patience, you can feel that way too.
Is There a Cure For Heart Failure?
Heart failure is a chronic condition that in most cases cannot be cured. However, it can be managed. For most people with heart failure, management means SELF-management - taking medications and making positive lifestyle changes.
Reach Out For Support!
Since self-management is so critical to your health, it’s important to understand and accept your emotional reactions to your diagnosis so that they don’t interfere with following your care plan. If you need encouragement, advice, or just someone to talk to, reach out to others for support.
Your Care Team
Many people will work together to help you live better with heart failure.
- Your primary care provider. This is the person you usually see for health problems. Your primary care provider could be a family practice physician, a general internist, a nurse practitioner, or a physician assistant.
- Your cardiologist. This is a physician specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of heart and blood vessel diseases.
- Other healthcare professionals. Many other professionals - including nurses, dietitians, pharmacists, exercise physiologists, care managers, and social workers - may contribute to different aspects of your care.
- You and your family. You and your family are at the center of this team! You need to be active participants in your care. This means learning as much as you can about your condition and treatment, following your treatment plan, and, most importantly, communicating with the rest of your healthcare team.