Heart failure is a chronic condition in which the heart cannot pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs. Over 34% of assisted living residents suffer from some form of heart disease. Understanding heart failure, the signs/symptoms, and long term management needs will better prepare you to meet the needs of your residents suffering from this condition in your assisted living or residential care community.
According to the National Institutes of Health, heart failure is a chronic condition that can affect only the ride side or only the left side of the heart, but more often both sides are involved.
The Disease Process (Adapted from the National Institutes of Health)
In heart failure the heart is no longer able to pump enough oxygen-rich blood out to the rest of the body. As the heart’s pumping becomes less effective, blood may back up in other areas of the body, leading to fluid buildup in the lungs, gastrointestinal tract, arms, and legs. When this fluid buildup occurs the condition is known as congestive heart failure.
Coronary artery disease is the most common cause of heart failure. Other causes can include:
- Congenital heart disease
- Heart attack
- Heart valve disease (this can occur from valves that are leaky or narrowed)
- Infection that weakens the heart muscle
Key Treatment Strategies
Always follow recommendations from the resident’s physician. Common treatment strategies for heart failure will include:
- Coordinate regular physician appointments (usually every 3-6 months) to monitoring heart function and overall condition
- Monitor for symptoms of worsening heart failure, such as shortness of breath, swelling in the hands or lower extremities, sudden weight gain, etc.
- Monitor and record the resident’s weight regularly. Sudden weight gain can be a sign of worsening heart failure as fluid is building up in the body.
- Monitor salt intake. The physician may recommend a low sodium diet.
- Assist with prescribed medications.
- Residents may require oxygen administration routinely or PRN. Follow your state regulations regarding assistance with oxygen administration.