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CARENOTES / Past Carenotes/ Discussion Forum / Let's Talk


Welcome to CareNotes. In this special section we will feature a reader's letter and provide an opportunity for an interactive exchange that will help find some answers and possible solutions to concerns. If you wish to respond to this letter, simple follow the link provided at the end of the letter and add your comments and thoughts to our CareNotes Board.

This Week's Carenote - 01/22/09
I'm wondering if anyone out there knows if having heart surgery can cause some memory problems, and have an effect on ones temper. My boyfriend of 4 years had an aneurysm that burst in his stomach and can have no more surgeries, his heart can't take it. Only 20% of his heart is working. His doctor doesn't know how or why he is still alive. I have to say this is not so easy for me, cause he is so moody and takes everything out on me. I can only do so much in one day. I feel so alone so much of the time. Any information would be helpful. Thank you


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Name: Ann
Location: Massachusetts
Date: 01/22/2009
Time: 05:57 AM


I would strongly suggest you get in touch with the hospice provider in your area. That doesn't mean that your boyfriend will be using hospice, but they can help you with information on very sick people. My husband died last week, and had been sick with diabetes, heart disease, and was on dialysis 3x a week. He was not really eating, was very weak. Every time I saw the doctors (he had 3), and complained about this, they would suggest that I encourage him to go for a walk, etc. I went crazy trying to find things that he would like to eat. When he died, so many people told me that his body had been shutting down, and in essence, he was dying. Hospice evidently has a booklet that explains the dying process, and helps the caregiver and anyone else, know what is going on. If I had known that it really was useless to keep nagging my hubby about exercise, etc., I would have just kept him company more as much as I could, because he slept quite a bit. I would have tried to be more accepting of his condition. None of the doctors took me aside and said something like: Mrs. Ann, your husband is quite frail, and with all of his medical problems, his quality of life is very poor. Don't expect him to put out a lot of effort, because it isn't going to happen. Just enjoy him, and when he is ready to go, whenever that will be, just let him go. Sometimes doctors are afraid of talking about death themselves. Doctors all want to keep everyone alive, and you want your boyfriend, whom you love, to be better. BUT, you need to know some of the signs that might suggest that things are not going the way you would like. The body gets tired, and nothing you or the doctors can do will change this. I wish I had more signs to give me a clue, because even though he was so ill, suddenly he had a brain haemorrhage, and died right away. Please keep yourself informed, so that if something does happen, you will be a little better prepared. Don't let the doctors push you into various treatments that MIGHT help, but don't. We could have had my husband operated on to drain the blood in his brain, but he would have ended up in a hospital, basically a vegetable. He is dead now, but went so peacefully, and slipped away, the way he wanted. I will pray for you and your boyfriend. Ann

Name: JeanJeanne
Location: New Jersey
Date: 01/22/2009
Time: 06:05 AM


I took care of my husband for 8 years and at times he was very moody and took things out on me. He last 8weeks with me was the hardest cause he would tell me things I needed to hear before. The one he kept on telling me was I'm so sorry I took everything out on you, you're the only one I have to talk to and let things out with. He would always say I love you, and words can't explain to you how much I truly love you. Nothing is against you, please remember that. To this day I and always will remember that. A special bond is there that you my not see right now. Prayers to you and your loved one! JJ

Name: Jean
Location: Creston IA
Date: 01/22/2009
Time: 06:06 AM


Has he been evaluated by a Dr. for these problems? He may need a behavior specialist. It sounds as though he had some low oxygen levels which can cause what you are describing. How are his oxygen levels now? I am sure the Dr. can help-go quickly for both your sake and his.

Name: Jane
Location: Kansas City
Date: 01/22/2009
Time: 07:05 AM


There is a known side effect of heart surgery where patients do have memory problems for a short period of time after heart surgery. However, that usually clears up and patients return to normal memory and cognitive function. There is also a chance that heart surgery patients will become depressed after surgery, about 30-40%. Sometimes, depression is expressed as anger and the anger is directed toward the caregiver. It is never pleasant for the caregiver and usually not for the care recipient. My first suggestion would be to have him thoroughly checked out by a physician who knows him and can see the differences. Before his appointment, you can alert the doctor as to what you have concerns about. That way, the doctor can direct his questions to get the most information. My second suggestion is that your boyfriend may need an antidepresant drug and may need both physical therapy and psychological therapy to work on his anger. These can both be addressed with his doctor. I also think you should go with him to his doctor's appointment. That way, you can know what is said, what he agreed to, and what your next steps need to be. Lastly, I would recommend counseling for you and some time off. Look for ways that you can be away from the caregiving burden, doing something that relaxes you. You NEED time away. It is not a luxury -- it is a necessity to keep your sanity and your commitment to caregiving strong.

Name: c
Location: cincinnati
Date: 01/22/2009
Time: 09:27 AM


Absolutely. For whatever reason anything with the heart affects emotions and mood. My husband is on his 4th pacemaker and says that each one affected him differently. He had a cardiac arrest a year and a half ago and is much more sensitive, and I've heard from other folks that that isn't unusual. Try not to take it personally, it's the condition, not you. Find someone to talk to - if you can't talk to your boyfriend when he's having a good day, talk to someone at church, a close friend, etc. They may not understand the situation but they can give moral support. Read Stronger at the Broken Places by Richard Cohen. It's an awesome book and my husband and I both could relate to it and found discussing it helped us work through some things. He's 56 and I'm 47 and working 2 jobs since he can't work. You're not alone, no matter how lonely it feels, we're out here and we understand.

Name: Roxanna
Location: Champaign, IL
Date: 01/22/2009
Time: 09:58 AM


A caregiver's role is not an easy one. His anger is not really directed at you it is his frustration at a body that is failing him. You are the one there so you receive his comments. I do not feel he is lashing out at you just his situation. Perhaps anti-depressants would help but would he take them? Take care of you. Is there some one other than you he could vent to? Clergy or someone else?

Name: Laura
Location: Florida
Date: 01/22/2009
Time: 01:19 PM


Any major surgery requiring lengthy general anesthesia can have an impact on mental function. If it was an emergency situation, there may have been some loss of blood flow to brain during the efforts to save his life. Many people who have had major cardiac events have been known to experience depression afterwards. It is often very difficult to help a loved one acknowledge changes and problems like these. Enlist the help of trusted care providers- doctor, nurse, therapist if you can, to discuss your concerns. Get support for yourself, since what you have noticed is understandably causing you stress. Try contacting the Heart Association for some info, maybe that could open a conversation about the stress and trauma you both have gone through.

Name: LeAne
Location: Spokane
Date: 01/23/2009
Time: 06:56 PM


J - The aneurysm did not change his personality, directly. He appears to be grieving, which is normal under these circumstances, however he has no right to take out all of the negative feelings, on you. Yes, he is hurting. And his response to his pain, is to hurt you. He needs help to deal with his feelings about death, his grief and his abuse of you - yes, this is abuse. You have the right to set limits on how he treats you, even if it means that you no longer live with him, or provide for all of his personal care needs. Call your physician, for a referral to a good counsellor who specializes in end-of-life issues or, contact a local Hospice agency. Then get a counsellor for yourself, to help you set limits, while providing support for him during this painful time.

Name: Jeannie
Location: Louisiana
Date: 01/23/2009
Time: 07:39 PM


I would like to thank all of you for being so caring. I don't feel so alone right now. My boyfriend will go for a CT scan and see the Vascular Dr. who did surgery on him and we will see if their is any infection in his stomach, or what is going on in there now. I do go with him to his appointments, I ask many questions but he can't give straight answers to me cause he just doesn't know. He doesn't know how M is still here now, cause The dr. told us NO one has lived with an aneurysm that big that burst and got totally infected. So now we wait and see on the 6th for all the ifs and what's that are going on inside of his body. He also has a 2 inch spot on one of his kidneys, which the dr. said at this point it doesn't pay us to do anything about it till we see where M is headed with his healing or not healing. M is still in a lot of pain, can't do much of anything and is very frustrated. All he says is I want to get better but we just don' know that. I thank all of you for prayers and I am in an online support group for my depression which I have been battling for years. I thank God for my children and my Dad, I dunno how I would get thru this without their support. and now I have found you guys. Thank you so much for all the advice. Jeannie


Name: Julia
Location: BC Canada
Date: 02/09/2009
Time: 11:56 PM


J, hard as it seems, you have to make some time for taking care of you. I know it sounds like a vast over simplification. Any kind of surgery can cause memory problems (from me, not the medical community) it only makes sense. And of course they will have an effect on the temper. The drugs, the entire experience, it must change the way we think and feel. My husband had a stroke that left him locked in. Your message resonates with me. I was told to take care of me, but I never really knew what that meant. I had to be there for him, I had to work, I had to look after the house and our kids. How exactly do you do it? How do I look after me? No one ever really had an answer. I have some better ideas now. If you'd like to chat please email me at I hope you get the answers you are looking for. Julia


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