Sleeping and Showering with an LVAD
While you’re recovering from surgery, an occupational therapist or other members of your LVAD team can help you adjust to changes with your sleeping habits and hygiene.
Sleeping with an LVAD
Many LVAD patients actually find that they’re able to sleep more comfortably with their LVAD than they did before because they’re feeling better and breathing more easily. There are, however, two major ways that having an LVAD affects your sleep routine:
1. You won’t be able to sleep on your stomach. Stomach sleeping can compress or pull on the driveline. Sleeping on your back is the best option, although some LVAD patients find it comfortable to sleep on their sides. You’ll also need to make sure that the driveline doesn’t get tangled in clothing or blankets. At first, sleeping with the LVAD may feel awkward, but most patients get used to it after a few days.
2. You’ll need to be connected to an electrical power source while you sleep. This is very important, because you may not hear the controller’s low-battery alarms when you’re asleep. Before bed, you’ll need to connect your device to an AC power source (a wall outlet). This may mean you’ll have to move your bed closer to an outlet, or sleep on a different side of the bed than you normally do.
Check all electrical connections before you go to sleep to make sure they’re tight. Make sure that the controller is stable beside you, so it won’t risk falling out of the bed and pulling on the driveline.
You should also keep a backup controller, charged batteries and a flashlight near you while you sleep, in case of a power outage.
Showering and Hygiene
Washing up is a little bit of a challenge at first, but most LVAD patients and caregivers say they get it “down to a science” fairly quickly. The main issue is that you can’t get the external components of your device wet, which means you won’t be able to take baths (or otherwise submerge your body in water). You’ll have to be careful when washing, too.
Here are some tips for washing:
- Avoid getting the driveline exit site dressing wet, and consider planning bathing times around exit site dressing changes.
- Put your controller and batteries within reach so they’re not pulling on the driveline, but are at a safe distance from any water. Putting them on a towel can help keep them from slipping off the side of the tub or sink vanity.
- Sit on a chair or bathing stool in the bathtub or shower stall, and use a basin of warm water and washcloth or sponge to wash. Or, wash at the sink while standing on a towel, so as not to get the floor or bath rug wet.
- To wash your hair, try using a hand-held shower wand or sprayer while standing over the kitchen sink or bathtub.
- Be sure that all floor surfaces are dry when walking around after bathing, to avoid slipping.
- Do not use powder around the exit site dressing.
Depending on your device and your VAD Center’s guidelines, you may be able to take a shower once your exit site heals and your LVAD team approves. Your LVAD may have a special shower bag that protects the driveline and device components. Your LVAD team will show you how to use your shower bag and also give you their recommendations for protecting the driveline exit site while showering. In this case, too, it may be best to schedule your shower around your exit site dressing changes.