Heart failure

Home life and everyday routines

Heart failure may mean having to lead life at a slower pace than before. Most people noticed that they got fewer things done each day and that they sometimes became breathless and tired when they did too much. Everyday tasks like catching a bus, climbing the stairs, shopping, cooking, cleaning, decorating, having a shower, putting on a car seatbelt and driving could cause some difficulty. Some people accepted their limitations (one woman said it had taken her a year to adjust, but others missed their former physical strength.

Lifting anything too heavy and stretching made some people breathless, and several had asked friends to help them with decorating and DIY though one woman said she disliked relying on others to do her work for her. Some people living alone had help with their housework; one man said he was surprised to be offered help but was glad of it. Many went shopping with their partner or relied on friends and neighbours to do shopping for them; one woman said she now did far less shopping and so had more money, and another woman who lives alone said some local shopkeepers helped out by delivering her shopping.

Many people were frustrated by their lack of strength; for instance a retired farmer said that hard work like digging took him twice as long as before, and a woman said she could no longer pick up her grandchildren or play football with them. One man said that because he couldn't do things he had given up trying, which annoyed his wife.

Many people had learned to pace themselves; for instance one man living on his own said that he didn't care how long it took to cook a meal or run himself a bath, and someone else said he tried to conserve his energy and would rather be delayed than run to catch a bus. Others who found that a particular activity put their hearts under strain had stopped doing it and asked their partners or children to help.

There were mixed feelings about what form daily exercise should take, for instance one woman said she got enough exercise doing housework and climbing the stairs. Someone else said that he preferred to drive to get his newspaper though he had to rest after putting on his seatbelt. Others had had to give up walking as a hobby and missed it a great deal (see 'Sports, hobbies and activities').

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People we spoke to who had been fitted with a medical device noted some improvement in their ability to do certain domestic tasks like housework, gardening and walking, but also felt that they do less than they used to as their condition deteriorated. 
People who lived on their own commented on the financial impact of heart failure and on their need to make choices. Vivienne explains that she manages thanks to the practical help she gets from her daughters, but without this help she would have to spend money on domestic help.
Few people we talked with were still working but only Mahendra continues working full-time in a non-physically demanding job. Roger had cut down the hours he was working as a painter and decorator due to a combination of several health problems. Mike lost his job after he was banned from driving because of his heart condition. 
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Last reviewed April 2016.
Last updated April 2016.


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