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The Heart Of It All: Preventing Re-Hospitalization of Seniors with Congestive Heart Failure

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    At ALC we have made it our mission to keep our clients healthy and out of the hospital.  Roughly 10% of our clients are receiving home health care after having been hospitalized for congestive heart failure (CHF), a condition for which there is a reportedly high hospital re-admission rate.  Karen Wise, ALC’s director of nursing has developed a care plan with a focus on preventing  re-hospitalization of seniors with congestive heart failure.

    CHF is one of the leading causes of hospitalizations and re-hospitalizations in the United States. The American Heart Association reports that more 6 million Americans have CHF, with more than 660,000 additional diagnoses annually.  The prevalence of heart failure doubles with each successive decade of life.

    When your heart is healthy, it circulates blood throughout your body.  Heart failure occurs when the ability of your heart to pump blood is weakened it’s unable to adequately meet your body’s needs. Symptoms of CHF can include shortness of breath and swelling of extremities, fatigue and/or an irregular heartbeat.  CHF is often caused by heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, infection, emphysema, overactive thyroid or other health conditions.

    While there is no cure for CHF, there is effective treatment as well as lifestyle measures that can help to improve the quality of life.  In addition to taking prescribed medication, this includes:

    • Exercise
    • Reducing salt in diet
    • Managing stress and depression
    • Reducing weight
    • Quitting smoking and drinking alcohol

    Wise said that ALC professionals carefully monitor clients’ pulse, blood pressure and weight.  Furthermore they help clients learn to check and log their everyday weight.  “If it goes up two pounds or more in one or two days, that could be a sign that they’re retaining fluid as a result of CHF.  It’s important to keep an eye on that,” she said.

    Paying attention to their diet is also important.  “We educate them about low-sodium diets.  Many seniors rely on frozen dinners, but unfortunately, these often have a lot of salt.  We help them identify foods that they should avoid,” Karen said.

    While recovering from hospitalization, patients with CHF may need to conserve their energy. “We talk about pacing their activities and keeping things that they’re going to need, close by,” Karen said.  “If they need exercise, we’ll coordinate physical or occupational therapy for them.”

    “Our program is proving to prevent re-hospitalizations, which is our ultimate goal,” Karen said.