The widespread impact of congestive heart failure (CHF) reaches more than 6.5 million adults in the US.* Not only can it significantly affect a person’s quality of life, but it’s also expensive in terms of both dollars and productivity. As the leading cause of hospitalization in older adults, heart failure costs the nation an estimated $30.7 billion in 2012.* This total includes the cost of health care services, medicines to treat heart failure, and missed days of work.
Maintaining heart health is a key concern for the future as well; according to the American Heart Association, the number of people diagnosed with heart failure is increasing and projected to rise by 46 percent by 2030. There are many contributing factors, including medical advances that help people survive heart attacks only to face higher heart failure risks afterward, as well as the increasing prevalence of diabetes and obesity in the population.
Caring for a family member with congestive heart failure can be overwhelming. The good news, though, is that there are many things you can do to help keep yourself or your loved one safe and thriving while living with CHF.
What is congestive heart failure?
Heart failure happens when your heart doesn’t pump enough blood and oxygen to support the other organs in your body. Though it is a serious condition, heart failure does not mean that your heart has stopped beating. Symptoms of congestive heart failure can include shortness of breath, having trouble breathing when lying down, persistent cough or wheezing, lack of appetite or constant nausea, or recent fluid build-up, to highlight just a few.
More than 550,000 new cases of CHF are diagnosed in the US each year.* One example is Richard P., a 54-year-old man with multiple chronic conditions including heart failure, high blood pressure, and diabetes. His family was overwhelmed caring for him at home and couldn’t seem to stop the revolving door between home and hospital. His doctor suggested home health care.
Ways to treat heart failure at home
It is important for people living at home with heart failure to understand and manage their condition on a daily basis to prevent it from worsening. Otherwise, they are at risk for serious consequences and recurring hospitalizations. Vital signs must be checked daily, including weight and blood pressure. Specific lifestyle changes can also deliver positive effects.
Here are a few simple steps that can make a big difference:
1. Weigh every day
Sudden weight gain is one of the first signs of heart failure. It means you’re retaining fluid. If you’re retaining fluid, call your doctor. They can intervene before you’re hospitalized for heart failure.
2. Monitor your blood pressure
Over time high blood pressure can put a strain on your heart. Ask your doctor or nurse for advice on which monitor is best and how to use it.
3. Reduce salt intake
Limiting salt is the #1 dietary self-care recommendation to people with HF. It’s important to avoid foods like bacon, canned soup, fried foods, salted butter, and fast food. Resist the urge to pick up the saltshaker, too.
4. Take medications as directed
It’s critical for people with heart failure to take medications as prescribed by their doctor. Reminders such as sticky notes on a refrigerator or bathroom cabinet can be a big help.
5. Dress loosely in layers
Avoid clothes that can restrict blood flow from the lower part of your body to your heart, especially socks or hosiery with a tight band at the top. Controlling your body temperature is also important in managing heart failure. Dress in layers so you can add or remove clothing as needed to stay comfortable.
6. Develop good sleep habits
Congestive heart failure makes getting good rest even more critical. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, people with heart failure are more likely to experience sleep-disordered breathing, with reported rates of 50 to 75 percent. As heart failure worsens, so does the frequency of sleep apnea. It’s important to control both conditions.
The genuine benefits of in-home services
Home is where someone with CHF (and all of us, for that matter) feels most comfortable. Home is also, of course, much less costly than hospitalization and a safeguard against hospital-borne infection.
And, for patients like Richard P. mentioned above, home health care services have been shown to improve patient outcomes, including functional status. While lists of dos and don’ts are wonderful, patients still need practical, professional guidance and care. BAYADA Home Health Care clinicians followed up with Richard every day and used teaching tools developed by the company’s heart failure experts to educate him on various warning signs. Richard was taught to know when to contact his BAYADA clinician or when to go directly to the ER.
The New England Journal of Medicine study noted that “Rehospitalizations could be avoided with a better-planned and executed discharge planning process, greater follow-up, monitoring of chronic illnesses, and connecting discharged patients to doctors.” This is precisely what happened with Richard and BAYADA. So, when Richard was discharged from BAYADA, he was feeling empowered and in control of his condition.
Take control today
You or your loved one can live at home successfully with congestive heart failure. Speak to your doctor about how home health care can help. Or contact us at BAYADA at 888-4-BAYADA.
* Benjamin EJ< Muntner P, Alonso A, Bittencourt MS, Callaway CW, Carson AP, et al. Heart disease and stroke statistics — 2019 update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2019;139(10):e56-528