Congestive heart failure (CHF) can take a toll on the physical and mental health of patients and their families. CHF can be frustrating, stressful, and disruptive to everyday living. Home health care, which includes palliative care, can help patients and their caregivers team up with their healthcare providers to manage the disease and improve life quality.

What Is Congestive Heart Failure?

Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a chronic condition in which the heart can’t properly pump blood throughout the body. CFH can happen in the left ventricle, the right ventricle, or on both sides. Although some CHF conditions are irreversible, treatment and lifestyle changes can reduce symptoms and help manage the disease.

Conditions leading to CHF include high blood pressure and narrowing of the arteries (coronary artery disease), both of which weaken the heart. Alcohol abuse, heart rhythm abnormalities, thyroid disorders, viral infections affecting cardiac muscle also are contributing factors.

Symptoms and Complications of CHF

CHF can be both sudden (acute) and ongoing (chronic). People who live with CHF feel uncomfortable and tired due to the persistent symptoms, one of which is being short of breath from exertion or lying down. The shortness of breath, coughing, and wheezing come from fluid building up in the lungs and other body parts, causing pain and swelling (edema).

Other symptoms include fatigue, leg inflammation, irregular or rapid heartbeat, abdominal swelling, fluid retention, nausea, and lack of appetite. Another sign is chest pain in the event of a heart attack.

Life with CHF can seem erratic. One day a patient might feel good and go on with everyday activities. On other days, they might experience shortness of breath and fatigue, which can interfere with regular exercise and daily routines. Other debilitating effects include the increased need to urinate at night, difficulty concentrating, and fast weight gain from fluid retention.

The prognosis and outlook for CHF patients depend on their age, current health and medical history, and the severity of the disease. One or more complications might arise from CHF, including heart valve and heart rhythm problems, kidney damage or failure, liver damage, and death.

Proper treatment and care can help many CHF patients improve their condition, but CHF is still severe and life-threatening. Patients with more serious conditions might need heart transplantation or surgery to insert a ventricular assist device.

Palliative Care for CHF

Chronic conditions like advanced-stage CHF require palliative care, often called supportive care. Palliative care is specialized medical care that focuses on relieving symptoms and stress to improve the patient’s quality of life, no matter the patient’s age.

Palliative care involves a team of trained doctors, nurses, nutritionists, therapists, and other providers to work with patients and their families. The group supports the patient and other family members in organizing care, managing pain and other symptoms, navigating the healthcare system, reducing stress, and improving life quality. More specifically, the palliative team makes sure patients understand their care and are up to date on their treatment plans.

Palliative Care for CHF at Home

Some patients receive palliative care in skilled nursing units. Others choose to accept it at home, where they can learn to manage and cope with the condition daily. For example, a home care provider can teach patients how to stand, sit, or lie down to reduce fluid retention in the lungs. They also can guide patients on how to decrease stress when they feel short of breath.

In addition to symptom management, home health care can include assistance with setting personal goals to help patients live with CHF. This approach can also show patients and family members how they can work together to meet their needs while living with this chronic condition.

Patients should remember to take their prescribed medicines, stay physically active, reduce their salt intake, and monitor symptoms and any changes such as weight gain. Patients and family caregivers should remain in touch with their doctors and bring up any questions or concerns with medications and treatment.

Home Care for CHF in the Age of COVID-19

Anyone with a chronic condition like CHF should follow all COVID-19 guidelines on social distancing, wearing masks, and hand washing. Coronavirus spreads through person-to-person contact and respiratory droplets. Because CHF is a risk factor, contracting the virus could lead to more serious complications.

How to Get Palliative Care for CHF

Are you or a family member living with CHF? In that case, it’s essential that you learn about all the care and treatment options available to you. If you live in Central Coast, Hollister, or Monterey County, consider CCVNA as an option for CHF home health care. CCVNA has a cardiac care program that provides comprehensive home nursing care. Consider asking your doctor for a referral to CCVNA’s palliative care Monterey County to treat and manage CHF.