Putting the “Pep” in Caregiving: Supporting Loved Ones with PAD

Ways to Support a Loved One Battling Peripheral Artery Disease

Assisting a Loved One with PAD

When Dale Tunnell first met his friend Rich at the dog park, little did he know that their bond would become stronger than most brothers. United by shared military experiences, including Dale’s Army service and Rich being a former Marine, their camaraderie was forged. Rich, once overweight and plagued by back problems, had even conquered his smoking habit after a heart bypass. So, when Rich received a diagnosis of peripheral artery disease (PAD), he faced it with hope, believing that treatment could put him on the path to recovery.

“He was cheerful and pragmatic about the things he couldn’t control,” says Dale, a research psychologist based in Sun City West, AZ. “He knew PAD was the result of how he lived, but probably wouldn’t go back and change anything.” Rich’s positive outlook, however, was put to the test when despite multiple doctors and treatments, he eventually had to face the amputation of his leg below the knee. The once blustery and gregarious Rich became morose, his spirit fading.

Tunnell, determined to lift Rich’s spirits, played the role of advocate and confidant. Armed with his secret weapon – chai tea – and the willingness to engage in conversations about everything from personal experiences to politics, Tunnell offered a listening ear amidst the storm. “The only guy he’ll listen to is me,” remarks Tunnell, highlighting the unique bond they share.

As Rich’s primary caregiver, his wife carries the weight of his well-being on her shoulders. Yet, Tunnell’s presence as a steadfast supporter has proven invaluable. However, the journey with PAD is not a solo venture; it affects both the patient and the caregiver. Tunnell witnessed firsthand the toll that PAD takes on both parties.

“To the patient, PAD can feel like a never-ending deal and probably the last thing that’s going to happen to them before they die – and it may be,” Tunnell explains. “The caregiver is going to hurt as much as the patient. They’re going to curse themselves for not being able to do more. It’s the nature of the beast. If you care, there’s always the feeling of despair: I wish there was more I could do.”

Advice for Caregivers: Adding Color to Their Role

When caring for someone with PAD, patience becomes the most vital ingredient for success. As Danielle Mondesir, a nurse practitioner with Modern Vascular in Houston, points out, both caregivers and patients must navigate a range of habits that demand modification. The emotional toll can be overwhelming as patients confront the loss of activities they once enjoyed, coupled with the knowledge that PAD could potentially lead to amputation (though not in all cases).

However, frustration and anger aren’t exclusive to those with PAD. Loved ones who had foreseen the potential consequences, tirelessly urging their partners to quit smoking and regulate their sugar intake, may find themselves grappling with their own emotions. “They’ve pushed their loved ones to stop. They say, ‘I told them to stop. I told them this would be an issue,’” says Mondesir. “They want the best for their loved one, but couldn’t get through to them. Sometimes it takes more than PAD to make them stop.”

While it’s natural to feel helpless when witnessing the physical and emotional toll of PAD on a loved one, there are ways to make a difference. “This is a chronic disease, and it takes effort not just by the patient but the caregiver to get the best outcomes,” advises Mondesir. Simply shuttling patients to appointments falls short; active involvement is key. The more caregivers educate themselves about PAD, the better equipped they become to support their loved ones through the journey.

So, caregivers, let’s put the “pep” back in caregiving! Embrace the challenge with patience, understanding, and a willful determination to learn and adapt. Your steadfast presence could be the beacon of hope that lights the way for those facing the storm of PAD.

Remember, you’re not alone in this. Share your experiences, advice, and thoughts below and let’s support each other on this rollercoaster ride of caregiving!

Your friendly health and psychology expert