Love is all around this month, especially on Valentine’s Day when we take time to turn to those closest to us and say those three magical words.
However, if you have a loved one who suffers from advanced cardiac disease, one of the best ways to show how much you care may not come in a sentimental card or a box filled with chocolates. Instead, it may come from calling hospice.
Oftentimes, people don’t realize that hospice care is an option for people who suffer from a weakened heart condition. Instead, patients with end-stage cardiovascular disease spend their final days and months in and out of the hospital, receiving treatments that do little to improve the course of the disease. Hospice offers a supportive program of holistic care designed to help patients manage pain symptoms, forego emergency room visits and receive convenient, compassionate care right in their places of residence.
During hospice care, cardiac patients are monitored by a team of physicians and nurses, who administer medications and treatments to keep them as comfortable as possible. Social workers help tap into valuable community resources. Chaplains and counselors provide emotional and spiritual care for the patient and family. Volunteers can sit with patients, read to them or help them with light household chores, and allow caregivers to get some much-needed respite.
In addition to doing everything we can to increase a cardiac patient’s quality of life, we’re finding that hospice often increases the cardiac patient’s quantity of life as well. In a study reported in the March 2007 Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, congestive heart failure patients who chose hospice survived 81 days longer than those who did not.
Heart disease is usually a long-term chronic illness that has lots of ups and downs over the years. Patients should check with their physician to see whether they are eligible for hospice based on their history of congestive heart failure, arrhythmias or heart attacks. Late-stage heart disease symptoms may include shortness of breath; debilitating fatigue; swelling in the feet, legs or abdomen; chest pains; or weight gain from fluid buildup. Advanced heart disease patients may not respond to standard therapies, like nitrates. The doctor also considers any coexisting diseases like HIV, diabetes, respiratory illness or kidney disease.
Even when modern-day technology or surgery can no longer offer hope, patients with late-stage cardiac disease need to know that help is always available. Hospice allows these patients to squeeze as much joy as possible out of their remaining days and to minimize their discomfort and pain.