Explaining Congestive Heart Failure to Friends and Family

When diagnosed with a new disease, it can be difficult to explain it to friends and family members so they fully understand what is going on with your body.

The problem

Unless you are a medical professional, it can be difficult to find the right words to use when explaining your condition. The key is to keep it simple. You may feel inclined to share your new-found knowledge, which is great, but in the beginning, keep it basic and build a foundation. You have plenty of time to impress and teach your family the fine details and medical terminology you have learned.

Keep it simple

Did you know most if not all hospital discharge teaching is written on an elementary reading and comprehension level? Hospitals do this so that everyone can easily understand what the diagnosis is, treatments given, diet recommendations, etc.

Use this mindset when explaining your condition. Reduced ejection fraction can be simplified to saying “my heart does not pump as much blood as it is supposed to.” This is a sample of a way to simplify a medical term into a statement most people will understand. Obviously, we can’t give every example for all conditions here, but I invite you to leave a comment on conditions or situations you would like help explaining and we will be happy to assist you with a simple explanation.

Be honest

This could arguably be one of the hardest parts of explaining your condition. Having to tell the people in your life you are closest to the brutal truth about your health is difficult, to say the least. However, you must be honest about your condition. It is important for them to understand what you are going through, especially since symptoms cannot always be seen. Yes, you want to keep it simple, but that doesn’t mean to make it sound better than it is.

The only exception I can think of is children. When first diagnosed, it’s my opinion they do not need to know the full extent of your diagnosis. Use your judgment if you want to let your kids know limitations and how “mommy” or “daddy” may be feeling some days because of the condition. In my experience, children can be very nurturing and comforting when having bad days.

Use the internet

The internet can be tricky. There are a lot of websites that do not have accurate advice or information. First, I would ask you to refer family and friends to this website, heart-failure.net. Some of the best information and advice comes from those suffering from the same condition. If you are looking for more of a medical type website, there are plenty of good ones out there. I would ask your physician for a recommendation or ask us which ones we like.

There are also some to stay away from. My personal opinion is to stay away from any website that promotes a product to sell. I don’t like getting my information from these types of sites. It seems like they have a motive to sell products rather than provide accurate information. Of course, it is up to you where you find your information. It is your responsibility to find safe and accurate information. Be sure to check the date of publication or last update to a website as information can change over time.

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