At Children’s Hospital Colorado’s Heart Institute, we are committed to fostering quality of life for every patient. Promoting wellness is part of the comprehensive care that makes Children’s Colorado different. Part of that comprehensive care is helping to support patients and caregivers in navigating, understanding and coping with their medical diagnosis. That’s where the Wellness Program comes in.
About the Wellness Program
Patients living with a cardiac diagnosis may face unique challenges throughout their development from childhood and into adulthood. Our team is here to help you and your family find healthy ways to cope with and adapt to living with a heart condition, in spite of challenges.
“We know that our families need comprehensive care, both while in the hospital and after they leave. That’s who this program is for." Jeff Darst, MD
The impact that heart problems have on a person and their family can be overwhelming, so our Program provides support during times of uncertainty. We strive to decrease the burden for you or your child through personalized care and supportive services that include mental health treatment, medical teaching, social and spiritual support and even therapeutic play and music therapy. Our goal is to provide ideas, time, space and resources that help patients thrive while they undergo medical treatment, and long after.
Who we treat
Experts in our Wellness Program are available to help all heart patients and families, whether they received a diagnosis yesterday or 20 years ago. Our collaborative team from multiple medical specialties meets weekly to help patients going through treatment succeed. This hands-on approach is unique to our Heart Institute and ensures that we are providing our patients with the highest quality comprehensive care.
We provide ongoing wellness care for patients for when they are in the hospital for intensive care and surgery, as well as when they are here for more routine outpatient cardiology visits. Our Program also supports patients between heart check-ups while at home, in school and in the community.
Addressing mind, body and development challenges for patients with pediatric heart disease
The psychosocial and developmental challenges of living with a heart condition are sometimes overlooked in traditional medical treatment. The clinical team members that support our Program have advanced degrees and specialized training and experience working with individuals who have acute or chronic illness, including pediatric heart disease. This expertise combined with the knowledge of our cardiology experts promotes well-being across a person’s lifetime for both physical and mental health.
Building trust and alliance with families is a priority. We do this by providing medical teaching for both children and adults, coordinating complex care across several medical specialties, ensuring comfort and safety, and advocating for holistic care that is respectful of you and your family’s goals and preferences.
Our social workers help families cope with the social, financial and psychological needs associated with heart conditions. These services include everything from providing emotional support to caregivers and parents to assessing whether a family’s basic needs are being met. Clinical social workers can connect families to public and community resources for topics like housing, health insurance, food security and much more.
Our child life specialists utilize therapeutic play, age-appropriate education and coping techniques to help patients and their families adjust to the hospital or clinic setting and cope with chronic illness and treatments. Our child life team can help prepare you and your family for a procedure or surgery, provide emotional support for siblings, help with re-entry into school and much more. We also utilize the Medical Dog Program to help comfort child and assist with treatment goals.
Our pediatric psychologists provide assessment, consultation and interventions to support overall mental health and well-being. They address such concerns as development, behavior, emotions, and social and academic challenges children may face. Our psychologists address issues that are specifically related to heart conditions, including:
- Difficulties adjusting to chronic illness
- Emotional symptoms, such as anxiety/panic, depression, or medical post-traumatic stress
- Adherence to a medical regimen
- New diagnosis or changes in disease status
- Pre-transplant psychological evaluation
- Assessing transition readiness and preparation for transfer to adult care
- Neuropsychological and neurodevelopmental assessment
- Consultation with schools, psychiatry, and other services
Learn more about how our psychologists work with the cardiology team.
Our chaplains provide support to children and families of all spiritual outlooks. They are available to pray with you or just listen, connect you with a faith leader or talk with you about ways to help you heal spiritually in addition to physical and mental healing.
Our music therapists utilize music to provide psychosocial, developmental, rehabilitative and physiological support to patients and their families during inpatient stays. Our music therapists use music listening, instrument play, improvisation and song writing to assist with things like pain and symptom management and emotional expression and processing.
Our learning services specialists are trained to evaluate a child’s academic needs and provide learning support services to individuals as well as small groups of children, informed by the most current knowledge and advancements in the fields of learning and learning disabilities. Specialists provide inpatient school services that include consultation with families and a child’s school during hospitalization. They can also provide educational instruction and materials and help with learning therapies that target pre-literacy and literacy skills, written language and mathematics.
Additional support for families
We offer inpatient and outpatient opportunities to connect with other heart families and a supportive community. Families can connect with each other at our weekly inpatient coffee time, outpatient support groups and community family events. Please contact us if you are interested in learning more.
To reach the Heart Institute Wellness Program, please email HIWellness@childrenscolorado.org.