It sounds really scary, but Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) doesn’t mean the heart has actually failed, end of story. What it means is that the heart has an inability to provide one’s organs or tissues with all the oxygen and nutrients needed. It means the decrease in the amount of blood the heart pumps isn’t enough to circulate the blood returning to the heart from the body and lungs – causing fluid to leak from capillary blood vessels. This leads to shortness of breath, swelling and weakness.
Scary, yes. But less so if the person experiencing CHF gets the professional care, medical attention and treatment needed to help prevent a life-threatening incident. Risk factors for CHF are the same as for most other heart diseases:
- Poorly controlled blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Family history
Many people live healthfully with stabilized CHF, but when there is another illness or stress on the body, the heart de-compensates and symptoms worsen. This includes pneumonia, infection, or simply an exacerbation of symptoms for no known reason.
At Highgate, treatment and control of CHF is individualized based on the goals the resident or family has established with their physician or cardiologist. Our care team can assist residents with their medications to ensure they are given consistently and appropriately each day. This includes heart medications, as well as those prescribed to manage contributing factors like high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol.
If symptoms worsen or vary from day-to-day, we can assist with the monitoring of daily weights and adjust diuretic medications if the physician orders it, to keep excessive fluid as controlled as possible. We can also assist with the placement of pressure stockings and remind residents to raise their legs above their heart several times a day. In addition, residents have daily opportunities for individual and group exercise. We encourage them to participate at their own pace and rest if need be. We’re here to help them get to and from exercise, assist with oxygen equipment or other assistive devices, and provide company and encouragement. We can also work with local physical therapists if a skilled exercise program is recommended.
Staying physically active is an important element in living with CHF. Limiting salt intake is another. At Highgate, all of our special diets are made with no added salt. But the choice is still up to each individual. Salt can be added at the table, if desired, or residents can add their own favorite salt-free seasoning. We help by providing gentle reminders and prompts about lower sodium choices, and offer half-portions for those who wish to limit their calorie intake.
One of the challenges of CHF is the periodic worsening of symptoms. When this happens, we try to intervene as early as possible to allow the resident’s physician or cardiologist a chance to see their patient and adjust their treatment plan before hospitalization is required.
When a stay at the hospital is necessary, we have established a hospitalization protocol to ensure that our nurses are aware of and prepared for any changes in medication or treatment when the resident returns to Highgate. Discharge plans from the hospital are incorporated into their personalized Service Plan and may include:
- New medication orders
- New or modified respiratory treatments
- Daily weights • Mobility restrictions
- New PT, OT, or exercise guidelines
Information from physicians and hospitals is vital to us, as it guides our team in addressing and reporting problems, helping the resident to feel good again, and avoiding another trip to the hospital.
For more information about Highgate Senior Living and all the ways we help our residents stay mentally, physically and socially engaged, request more information from Highgate Senior Living today.