Key Takeaways

    • CPR and AED training should be a part of your hospital discharge plan.
    • You are not helpless, and you can become trained in lifesaving.
    • Reach out to charities and community organizations, and you may be able to find an opportunity to receive low- or no-cost training.
Where do I get trained?

As a close family member of a cardiac arrest survivor, being prepared for another cardiac event can be empowering. CPR and AED training can help you feel capable and confident in an emergency. By learning these life-saving skills, you can take control and ensure you are well-equipped to respond effectively and potentially save the life of your loved one or others in your community.

Living with and caring for a cardiac arrest survivor comes with many responsibilities, including being prepared to respond to another cardiac arrest.

This may mean preparing advanced directives and having a candid conversation about the Do Not Resuscitate option in certain cases. And even though a repeat cardiac arrest is an absolute nightmare, you do not have to be helpless in the face of this rare possibility. Ensuring family members are trained in CPR and using an AED can be lifesaving. We provide links below to high-quality, authoritative sites as sources for detailed information.

Co-survivor insight: “When Dad left the hospital, he still had heart failure, he wasn’t cured, and he kept having ventricular tachycardia while he was in the hospital. I was scared to take him home, even though the doctors and nurses said we would be okay and he was ready to be discharged. The nurse specialist offered us a CPR class for families like ours, and we all jumped at the opportunity. We got trained because we wanted to be able to take care of Dad if his heart stopped again, and we even rented an AED for the first year. Luckily we never had to use it, but we all knew how to if Dad needed us, or anyone else needed us for that matter.”

Understanding cardiac arrest and the need for CPR and AED training

Cardiac arrest is an abrupt loss of heart function leading to death if not attended to immediately. As co-survivors and family members of cardiac arrest survivors, we recommend being proactive and prepared to respond to another cardiac event. In certain cases, genetic relatives may also be at increased risk of cardiac arrest, which should be discussed with doctors before discharge. Learning CPR and how to use an AED can be critical in the moments following a cardiac event, as early intervention can significantly improve the chances of survival and recovery.

Research supporting CPR and AED training

Several studies highlight the importance of CPR and AED training for family members of cardiac arrest survivors. Haugk et al. (2006) found high acceptance of home AED programs among survivors of sudden cardiac arrest and their families. This study suggests that the availability of an AED at home, combined with training in its use, can contribute to feeling safer. 

Dougherty (1997) emphasized the importance of family-focused interventions for survivors of sudden cardiac arrest, including CPR training that helped families feel in control during the especially chaotic post-arrest period. In a review by Douma (2021), it was identified that families of cardiac arrest survivors prioritize rapid recognition and response, and they need help preparing for and responding to emergencies should they occur. Getting trained is a great way to prepare.

Benefits of CPR and AED training for co-survivors

CPR and AED training provide co-survivors with the knowledge and skills necessary to respond effectively during another cardiac arrest. This training can offer several benefits, including:

    • Increased self-efficacy: Training in CPR and AED use can empower family members by providing them with the confidence to act in an emergency situation.
    • Enhanced mastery: Learning these life-saving skills can return a sense of control for families and satisfaction from knowing how to act should the unthinkable happen.
    • Improved overall preparedness: CPR and AED training can help families feel more prepared to handle emergency situations inside and outside the home involving their loved ones or others in their community.
Developing a family emergency plan

In addition to CPR and AED training, our families have developed emergency plans that outline the steps to take in the event of another cardiac arrest. Our plans include:

    • Identifying the location of the nearest AED (if not available at home)
    • Assigning roles and responsibilities to family members during an emergency
    • Establishing a clear communication plan to inform other family members and emergency services
    • Reviewing and practicing the plan regularly to ensure all family members are familiar with the procedures

For guidance on developing a family emergency plan, visit:

Sources

Dougherty CM. Family-focused interventions for survivors of sudden cardiac arrest. Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing. 1997 Oct 1;12(1):45-58. Douma MJ, Graham TA, Ali S, Dainty KN, Bone A, Smith KE, Dennet L, Brindley PG, Kroll T, Frazer K. What are the care needs of families experiencing cardiac arrest?: A survivor and family-led scoping review. Resuscitation. 2021 Nov 1;168:119-41. Haugk M, Robak O, Sterz F, Uray T, Kliegel A, Losert H, Holzer M, Herkner H, Laggner AN, Domanovits H. High acceptance of a home AED program by survivors of sudden cardiac arrest and their families. Resuscitation. 2006 Aug 1;70(2):263-74. Community AED & PAD Guide: https://www.peelregion.ca/paramedics/defibrillator-program/_media/community-aed-pad-guide.pdf
Thank you to our contributors

Matthew Douma & Karen Fray

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