Hospice Help: Caring for ailing hearts

DO YOU OR A LOVED ONE find it increasingly more difficult to breathe? Ever have tightness or pain in your chest for more than 15 minutes? Are your feet, ankles or abdomen swelling? Or, are you worried about the fact that you have rapidly gained three to five pounds in a day, while also fighting a losing battle with constant fatigue or tiredness?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might have or are even already diagnosed with congestive heart failure, also known as CHF. You are not alone! It is estimated that almost six million Americans are affected with this disease, and, unfortunately, it is also the top reason for people older than 65 being admitted to the hospital. Contrary to what the name describes, CHF does not mean that your heart has “failed” or stopped working. It actually means that your heart does not pump as well as a normal heart, and this results in blood coursing through your body at a slower rate. What happens as a result of this is described in the name, meaning your body becomes “congested” with fluid build-up.

Once a diagnosis of CHF is confirmed, it is extremely important that you play an active role in the management of your disease. The following are some good practices to follow:

• If your doctor has prescribed medication, take it as instructed. If you miss a dose, the medication will not be effective in managing your symptoms.

• Be consistent in weighing yourself every day and, even better, around the same time. An increase in weight may mean you are retaining fluid. This can overwhelm your heart and cause symptoms including shortness of breath.

By closely monitoring symptoms, patients with CHF can help avoid an emergency trip to the hospital. At Good Shepherd Hospice, our medical team can evaluate advanced CHF to determine whether criteria are met for hospice care. We are dedicated to helping control the symptoms of severe or end-stage CHF, and allowing sufferers to remain comfortable in their own home. For more information, call 1-800-544-3280 or visit us online at chaptershealth.org.

This column is sponsored by Good Shepherd Hospice.


column by KENDRA HALL, D.O.

BIO: Board certified in Family Practice, Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Kendra Hall, D.O., received her medical degree from Nova Southeastern University College of Osteopathic Medicine, where she also earned a Master’s degree in Public Health. After serving as a contract physician with Good Shepherd Hospice for more than seven years, Dr. Hall became the medical director.

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