One of the most heartbreaking illnesses we ever have to watch our aging parents suffer through is congestive heart failure, or CHF. CHF is a condition in which the heart can't pump enough blood to the body's other organs. According to the American Heart Association, most people with mild and moderate congestive heart failure can be treated. Proper medical supervision can prevent them from becoming invalids. One of the major comforts you can provide your aging parent is the ability to live at home with CHF, rather than be placed in an assisted living facility. While your parent may have to rely on home health care, living at home will allow him or her to be as comfortable and independent as possible.
CHF can be caused by high blood pressure, heart valve disease, heart defects from birth, heart attacks, atherosclerosis (hardened arteries), cardiomyopathy (disease of the heart muscle) or other diseases that increase the body's demand for oxygen-rich blood, including certain cancers and hypothyroidism.
The affect of CHF on the body
People with CHF may develop other serious conditions as a result of this illness; kidneys, lungs, and liver can all be seriously affected. If you have an aging parent who suffers from CHF, there are strategies that will allow him or her to remain at home and not be forced into a long-term care or an assisted living environment if that is not the desire.
Solutions for living well
CHF requires careful medical monitoring and a variety of medications along with modifcations to diet, exercise, and safety. First, you should ensure that your aging parent maintains his or her health as well as possible. Living with CHF requires dietary changes, especially decreased sodium intake. Alcohol intake should also be monitored carefully.
Living at home with CHF is easier if your aging parent can stay as active as possible. You can help by working with your parent's physician to find safe ways to exercise.
Blood pressure should be managed with exercise and medication if needed. High blood pressure only exacerbates CHF. This means your aging parent's emotional health needs to be considered as well.
To keep your aging parent with CHF safe, make sure he or she has easy access to a phone should there be a need to call for help. Schedule friends and family to check in on your parent regularly, and have the phone number of a neighbor who could be there quickly in an emergency. Make sure your parent keeps his or her medical appointments.
According to the American Heart Association, there are certain symptoms of CHF that require immediate emergency intervention:
- Worsening shortness of breath
- A five-pound or more weight gain in a week or less
- New or worsening leg swelling
- Difficulty breathing at night, coughing through the night
- Inability to sleep without sitting up
- Chest pain or a heavy feeling in the chest
- No weight loss effect from additional water pills
With a little planning and some support from family and friends, aging parents with CHF can live at home comfortably and safely. A significant consideration may be how remaining at home may enhance your parent's quality of life and be a genuine source of happiness to your parent.