free guide

Supporting someone with AF

If the person you care for has AF, or for example is adapting to the effects of a heart attack or stroke, you can face some stiff challenges. Life may have changed for you both very quickly, and this will take some adjusting to.

Managing medications

Taking prescribed medicines in the correct way makes a big difference to their effectiveness. Helping someone manage their medicines is something really valuable that you can do.

  • Be clear about what the medicine does: understanding what it’s for, when it needs to be taken and any possible side effects is important. Read the information that comes with the medicine, which will explain how the drug helps protect against the risk of stroke.
  • Help with reminder systems: it can take time to establish a fail-safe routine of taking tablets every day. Help by reminding them yourself, and putting the pills in obvious places, for example by the remote control.
  • If they take multiple medicines: many people with heart conditions also take other medicines. Your pharmacist may be able to help by marking medicines so that they state days and times to make taking medication easier. Pharmacists are qualified to advise you on all aspects of medication, so it’s worth having a chat with them.
  • Get organised! Keep a file (or suggest they do) with details of doctor’s surgery phone numbers and opening hours and the same for clinics or local hospitals you attend. You can also keep information about AF, medication and appointments here in one place that you can both access.

To help you and your loved one manage their medications, use our medication review.

Looking after someone with AF

Everyone’s experience of AF is different, so if you’re helping someone with the condition then it helps to know how it is for them.

  • Triggers: for some people with AF certain things can trigger an ‘episode’. These triggers vary: for some people it’s when they exert themselves, drink too much alcohol or feel stressed. If so, try to reduce possible ‘trigger’ situations.
  • During an AF episode: if someone has had a confirmed diagnosis of AF then they can simply lie down or sit still during an ‘episode’ – many attacks will pass spontaneously. You can help by maintaining a calm atmosphere, noting down when the episode occurred and for how long and being alert to changes in the frequency or severity of attacks – if this happens they need to see their doctor. Try to reduce anxiety by reassuring yourself and them that while going through an AF episode is very unpleasant, it isn’t dangerous or potentially fatal.
  • Know what to do in an emergency: To put your mind at rest, find out about your nearest emergency room; and have your important contacts on speed dial at home and on your mobile: doctor, next of kin, emergency services etc. It’s a good idea for the person with AF to carry an emergency card with them with contact numbers and details of their condition. 

Keep talking


Making sure that you make time to talk to others is vital. It’s important to stay connected with your circle of friends and family. It is also good to realise that there are others out there who are sharing your experience.