Heart Disease Care

by Mahala Church

Heart failure is the primary reason Medicare patients are hospitalized. These patients often have co-morbid conditions that put them at a high risk for a poor outcome from heart failure.  They are more likely to be re-hospitalized within one year.

How Does a Skilled Nursing Facility Help Someone That Has Heart Disease?

Skilled nursing care facilities are similar to nursing homes but provide more complex care such as intravenous therapy and rehabilitation.  Based on a heart failure patient’s cognitive ability, access to in-home care, and mobility, a skilled nursing care facility may be the best choice for post-hospital care to foster independence and define goals for the patient.

What is Congestive Heart Failure?

The heart doesn’t efficiently slow down the blood flow from the heart; thus blood throughout the body backs up.  The backed-up blood creates congestion system wide – difficulty breathing, dizziness, irregular heartbeat, paleness, kidney disease, cold arms and legs, and extreme swelling in the abdomen, ankles, and feet.  With early diagnosis and treatment, patients can recover.  A patient with a history of heart attack or narrowed blood vessels from high cholesterol, hypertension, alcohol abuse, or congenital heart disease has a poorer chance of recovery.  It is important to understand that life may not go back to normal with this high risk diagnosis in the elderly, and moving to a senior living community may be a good thing to start thinking about.

How do you Care for Someone Who Has Heart Disease?

Heart failure requires vigilant monitoring to decrease the chance of a recurrence.  A clinical environment around-the-clock may be needed.  This includes daily:

  • measuring fluid intake and urine output
  • weight taking
  • meal planning to decrease sodium intake and maintain protein balance
  • extremity checks for swelling
  • medications taken at the correct time
  • heart rate and blood pressure taken in different positions, and
  • possibly physical and/or occupational therapy.

Frequent lab work to ensure metabolites such as potassium and sodium and hemoglobin and hematocrit are at correct levels is necessary.  Occasionally intravenous fluids and oxygen may be needed in the early days after discharge from the hospital.  The advanced care that a heart failure patient needs, in addition to age considerations and co-morbid conditions, significantly increases the need for skilled nursing and impacts survival rates.  Given the complexity of multiple diagnoses in the aging patient with heart failure, it is not surprising that re-hospitalization rates are high, including those discharged from a hospital to a skilled nursing facility.

Why A Skilled Nursing Facility?

Skilled nursing facilities have trained providers around the clock to care for patients.  Skilled care includes registered nurses, vocational and practical nurses, physical and occupational therapists, speech pathologists, social workers, and medical aides.  Skilled care is more advanced than basic custodial care – basic needs like eating, bathing, dressing, and bathroom – and requires clinical evaluation, monitoring, and care.  While a patient may not stay in skilled care until they are completely recovered, its purpose is to improve the patient’s condition and prevent it from worsening.  If that is not a realistic goal, skilled nursing care will assist in coordinating hospice and other services needed for high risk patients.

Call your local Care Advisor at (866) 662-0435. They can help you find the community that offers all of the care needed, in the right location and that’s within your budget.

Mahala Church is an editor and writer with extensive experience in healthcare management and nursing. Specializing in oncology nursing, she is a strong patient advocate. Her writing couples her degrees in liberal arts and nursing with her experience in business and healthcare to foster support for patient and family education.