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End-of-Life Signs: Congestive Heart Failure

Nearly 6 million Americans suffer from Congestive Heart Failure. Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) occurs when the heart is unable to pump blood fast enough, resulting in swelling, shortness of breath, and other issues. There is no cure for congestive heart failure. As end-stage CHF approaches, it’s important to understand the end-of-life signs for congestive heart failure, and how hospice can help in managing these symptoms.

End-stage heart failure: what to expect.

While not all the end-of-life signs may be present in the final days of Congestive Heart Failure, below is a general outline of what a CHF patient and their loved ones can expect.

  • Shortness of Breath (Dyspnea): While shortness of breath is common throughout CHF (particularly while active) it becomes much more persistent towards the end-of-life. Patients start to experience dyspnea while resting as well.
  • Swelling (Edema): Because of the heart’s inability to pump blood effectively, fluid builds up in the body and swelling occurs. This swelling occurs most frequently in the legs and abdomen.
  • Chronic Cough & Wheezing: Just like with the shortness of breath, a chronic cough becomes more prominent in the final months and weeks of congestive heart failure. The cough is often times accompanied by some wheezing and white or pink-colored mucus.
  • Confusion & Delirium: As with any chronic, life-threatening illness, some confusion and delirium can be expected. CHF patients often times experience disorientation due to changing sodium levels in the blood.
  • Rapid Heart Rate: Because the heart needs to work harder to pump blood, it will start beating significantly faster.
  • No Appetite: A lack of appetite is common for patients experiencing the end-stage of a chronic illness. While not eating may be concerning to loved ones, this is a natural part of the end-of-life process.

Tips for managing congestive heart failure end-of-life signs.

You may be asking, “How can I provide comfort to my loved one as they experience the end-of-life signs of congestive heart failure?” It’s only natural that you as a caregiver will want to be as helpful as possible, and ensure that your loved one is experiencing as little pain as possible. Here’s some ways you can help:

  • Communicate with the doctors and healthcare professionals: Your loved one may be too weak, or simply forget, to communicate their symptoms to the doctors and nurses. You can help by sharing this information with them in order to make sure your loved one gets what they need.
  • Provide comfort: Sometimes it is just as simple as spending time with your loved one watching a TV show, or talking about things they love. These conversations can help in alleviating some of their depression and anxiety.
  • Help them remember to take their medicine: There will likely be various pills and medications that your loved one needs to take. You can help by assisting your loved one in staying on schedule.

What you can do for your loved one.

In addition to symptom management, it’s important for the family caregiver to learn how to recognize the end-of-life signs for CHF, and when they should contact hospice. Hospice care will be able to address the specific needs of CHF patients in their final days, and help them to get the most out of what time they have left.

Learn more about hospice eligibility for end-stage CHF.

If you would like to learn more about hospice care and CHF, take a look at the hospice eligibility requirements for congestive heart failure. You can also get more information by contacting us via the blue Help Center bar above.

End-of-Life signs by disease.

Learn about the specific end-of-life signs of common diseases and illnesses:

More end-of-life resources.