Handle Your Cardiovascular Care at Home
February is American Heart Month. During the third week of this recognition period—February 12-18, 2023—cardiologists will call attention to heart failure, a condition that costs Americans more than $30 billion each year and affects more than 6.2 million Americans, most of them older adults.
Congestive heart failure (CHF) occurs when the heart is unable to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs. Heart failure can be caused by other existing heart conditions, such as coronary heart disease, as well as by diabetes, high blood pressure and certain lifestyle factors. It is a serious condition, but it does not mean that the heart has stopped beating. Symptoms include shortness of breath, trouble breathing when lying down, general fatigue or weakness, and weight gain with swelling in the feet, legs, ankles, or stomach.
Today, many heart failure patients are referred to cardiac rehabilitation, a medically supervised program that includes exercise training, lifestyle education, counseling, and assistance with managing the patient’s medical routine. The American Heart Association (AHA) reports that cardiac rehabilitation increases both the length and quality of patients’ lives, as well as reduces depression and hospitalizations.
With the proper care, it is possible to manage congestive heart failure, but there are many moving parts to a cardiovascular care plan—medication management, physical activity, special diet, and transportation to appointments and cardiac rehabilitation. Family members sometimes pitch in to help older loved ones manage their care, but professional in-home caregivers are also a great resource to help provide the extra help their loved one needs.
An in-home caregiver can help a person with congestive heart failure manage their condition at home by helping with:
Providing medication management: In-home caregivers can help ensure that patients take their medications as prescribed, which is an important part of managing CHF.
Keeping a heart failure diary: Many patients are advised to keep a daily record of weight, fluid intake, leg swelling and shortness of breath. In-home caregivers can remind them to do this, as well as help them report concerning signs such as a sudden, steady weight gain; increased fatigue or swelling; and difficulty breathing.
Meal planning and grocery shopping: Managing CHF means monitoring salt intake. In-home caregivers can help their clients choose heart-healthy low-sodium foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, pasta, beans and legumes, and lean protein sources. They can also help prepare these foods in a way the client enjoys and provide education about nutrition labels.
Assisting with daily tasks: People with CHF may have difficulty performing certain activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, and grooming. In-home caregivers can provide assistance with these tasks as needed.
Monitoring vital signs: In-home caregivers can take vital signs, such as blood pressure and pulse, and report any changes to the patient’s healthcare team.
Providing education: In-home caregivers can teach patients and their families about CHF, including how to manage the condition, recognize symptoms, and prevent complications.
Providing emotional support: Living with a chronic condition such as CHF can be emotionally challenging. In-home caregivers can provide support and companionship, which can be especially helpful for patients who live alone.
Transportation: Caregivers can help get their clients to doctor’s appointments, cardiac rehabilitation therapy, fitness activities, or community events.
If you or someone you know have recently been diagnosed with a heart disease, you have a supportive network right here in Skagit county. Besides having access to our professional staff of Personal Care Aides that can provide support with the activities described above, there are two medically supervised cardiac rehabilitation programs nearby that open to the public.
The Skagit Regional Health Heart and Vascular Institute in Mt Vernon (360-336-9757) provides a complete medically supervised cardiac rehabilitation program that is designed to improve cardiovascular health for those people that have had a heart attack, heart failure, angioplasty, heart surgery or vascular surgery.
There is also a medically supervised cardiac rehabilitation program at Island Health in Anacortes (360-299-4242) that is wholly devoted to helping participants recover and get back to the everyday activities that they enjoy.
Our in-home caregivers can help you manage your congestive heart failure and live a safe and healthy life at home. Contact us for a customized care plan that meets your needs.