Patient care is at the heart of what we do

By Mindo - 06th May 2022 | 234 views

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The Irish Heart Foundation has developed a range of new services to support people living with cardiovascular disease through the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond.

Patient care is at the heart of what we do

The Irish Heart Foundation has developed a range of new services to support people living with cardiovascular disease through the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond

When Covid-19 hit our shores in March 2020 we were hugely aware of the devastating impact it could have on people living with heart disease and stroke.

These fears were borne out as the pandemic progressed with research confirming that people living with heart disease were much more likely to suffer from severe disease if they contracted Covid-19. 

In response to the pandemic, the Irish Heart Foundation developed a new five-year organisational strategy that underpins our commitment to continue to care for hearts across Ireland through Covid-19 and beyond. 

Our new strategy Defending, empowering, and caring for Irish hearts 2020-2024, is supported by three key pillars: Defend, empower, and care; three words that we feel perfectly encapsulate our work. 

We defend Irish hearts from the commercial, environmental, and societal threats to heart health, such as unacceptable gaps in patient care, tobacco, air pollution, and the marketing of unhealthy foods. 

We empower patients and the general public by giving them the tools and information to lead healthy lifestyles and make informed decisions about their health. 

And we continue to care for every heart impacted by heart disease and stroke through online, telephone, and community-based support programmes.

Stroke Connect 

At the end of March 2020, the HSE’s National Stroke Programme asked for our help to support patients who were being discharged early from hospital to accommodate the first wave of acute Covid-19 patients. In response, we developed a phone support service to help newly-discharged stroke survivors nationwide make the transition home and start rebuilding their lives with confidence. This service addresses the sense of abandonment many patients feel after leaving hospital, ensuring no stroke survivor has to face the future without expert help and support.

This service has since evolved to become the Irish Heart Foundation Stroke Connect Service; a weekly telephone support service for newly discharged stroke patients and all stroke survivors who need practical and emotional support post-stroke.

After referral to the service, an Irish Heart Foundation nurse will phone the client to complete a thorough needs assessment. The client is then offered eight weeks of emotional and practical support through weekly phone calls, providing information, signposting, comprehensive health advice, and an option to avail of a range of additional services, including counselling, physical activity programmes, peer-to-peer support, and self-management programmes. 

After completing the programme, stroke survivors can connect to additional supports provided by the Irish Heart Foundation, depending on need.

For more information or to refer your patients to the service please email: strokeservices@irishheart.ie or call 01 668 5001. 

Heart Connect

The success of our Stroke Connect Service has led to the recent development of a similar programme for people living with heart failure called Heart Connect. 

While still a pilot project and currently only available in the HSE CHO area 5 (South Tipperary, Carlow/Kilkenny, Waterford, Wexford), the Heart Connect service is a response to a huge unmet need for ongoing support for people living with heart failure in the community. 

A lack of support and education can mean that patients can struggle to manage their heart failure effectively and Heart Connect aims to help them with this through the promotion of self-care and education. We know from patient feedback that dealing with a chronic illness like heart failure can be very isolating and low mood, anxiety, and depression can be high among those diagnosed with the condition. 

The Heart Connect phone support service will provide patients with six support calls from Irish Heart Foundation staff on a monthly basis.

The service aims to complement the work of heart failure clinics and GPs and will also provide a pathway to escalate any issues or concerns to the patient’s medical team/heart failure clinic

The focus of these calls is to reinforce the advice of heart failure clinics and GPs and provide social, emotional, and practical support, advice, and education on the management of their condition. There is also an option for referral to other Irish Heart Foundation supports, such as the nurse support line, Zoom information meetings, exercise classes, and other short-term interventions, such as mindfulness and counselling. 

A key part of the service is checking in with the person to ensure they know how to manage their condition, recognise and understand red flag signs and symptoms, and who to contact if there are any issues.

The service aims to complement the work of heart failure clinics and GPs and will also provide a pathway to escalate any issues or concerns to the patient’s medical team/heart failure clinic, with the aim of preventing further deterioration and or hospital admission. After completing the six-month programme, patients can continue to receive ongoing support from the Irish Heart Foundation’s heart failure support service.

A range of additional supports 

Coupled with the Heart Connect and Stroke Connect services, the Irish Heart Foundation also offers a range of additional services that aim to improve the quality-of-life and wellbeing of people after a heart event or stroke. Our supports are available to all stroke survivors, people with any kind of heart condition, and carers.

These services include:

  • Exercise classes on Zoom and Facebook.
  • Nurse support line. 
  • Members of our heart and stroke support services can get up to six weeks of professional counselling. 
  • Peer support.
  • Newsletter – inspiring patient stories, information and advice by post or email.
  • Health information – access to a range of print and online information to help you live well.

Our experienced Irish Heart Foundation nurses are available to help with any questions or concerns no matter how small and are available on the nurse support line, Monday to Friday, 9am to 1pm. Call 01 668 5001 or email support@irishheart.ie.

We also run private Facebook groups which provide advice, information, and support. These groups allow people affected by cardiovascular disease to share their thoughts and concerns with a strong community of similarly affected people. Group activities include online exercise videos, information talks, health advice, and peer to peer support. We currently have three private Facebook groups; Life After Stroke, Heart Support Network, and Carers Support. We also run a special support group for young stroke survivors. 

To find out more about any of our heart and stroke supports please email support@irishheart.ie or call our nurse support line on 01 668 5001 – Monday to Friday, 9am–1pm.

For more information on the Irish Heart Foundation please see www.irishheart.ie

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