Comfort for CHF Patients Should Begin at Diagnosis
Too often, congestive heart failure (CHF) patients wait until their final days before bringing in the support of hospice care, despite the discomfort of their symptoms. Little do they know that they don’t need an immediate terminal diagnosis to get extra help. Palliative care for CHF can begin managing symptoms at the time of diagnosis, bringing comfort and support to the patient and their family.
CHF is a progressive chronic heart condition that affects the heart’s ability to pump efficiently. When your heart can’t pump enough blood to the body, blood and other fluids back up in your lungs, abdomen, liver, and lower extremities. This causes fatigue, swelling, and shortness of breath.
Symptoms of CHF
In the early stages of CHF, most people don’t notice changes in their health beyond some fatigue and swelling in the ankles, feet, and legs. As the condition worsens, patients begin to notice an irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, wheezing, and a cough that develops from congested lungs.
CHF is typically diagnosed after diagnostic tests show abnormalities in the heart’s rhythm and blood flow.
In early stages, patients may be prescribed medication including ACE inhibitors, beta-blockers, and diuretics. Palliative care for CHF includes working with the patient and their physician to address medication changes when needed.
How Palliative Care Can Help CHF Patients
Patients with CHF struggle with shortness of breath and swelling in their lower extremities. Palliative care nurse practitioners meet with the patient in their home to help address these symptoms.
The palliative care team works closely with the CHF patient’s doctors to monitor their symptoms without the need for extra visits to the doctor’s office or emergency room. Seeing the patient in their home makes appointments easier on the patient and their caregivers while ensuring their doctor is kept fully informed of any changes that are needed in the patient’s care plan. Home visits from the CHF patient’s palliative care team also reduces the risk of infection from colds and other illnesses in the hospital or doctor’s waiting room.
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