Care Planning Reduces Hospital Re-Admission

Elderly parents suffering from heart failure constitute a large percentage of hospital re-admissions. Those suffering this malady greatly impact the cost of health care due to the ongoing medical vigilance required to maintain healthy blood circulation.

Nationally, one of every four heart failure patients is readmitted within 30 days of discharge and as many as 40 percent within six months. At the same time, studies have shown that with proper management, heart failure patients could be kept out of the hospital in at least 40 percent of cases. 

Whereas it was once felt that heart transplants and other state-of-the-art technologies were the best way to help these patients, today the thinking is to start with the basics by educating and teaching people to make lifestyle changes. This includes teaching the importance of eating and exercising properly, along with taking medications in a timely and proper manner. Such simple and controllable steps can help to avoid a high-tech procedure such as by-pass surgery.

Heart failure, once called congestive heart failure, is when the heart can no longer pump enough blood to the rest of the body. My Mother suffers from congestive heart failure. With this often chronic condition, blood may back up in other areas of the body causing fluid buildup in the lungs, liver, gastro-intestinal tract, and resultant swelling in arms and legs. This lack of proper blood circulation can result in a reduced lack of oxygen and nutrition to the body’s organs and extremities. Over time, this will likely cause damage and reduce the body’s ability to work properly. 

An elder experiencing heart failure may begin to show symptoms slowly, and this may only be apparent when an elderly parent is active. Physical warning signs to watch out for include — shortness of breath, coughing, swelling of the feet and ankles, weight gain, heart palpitations, difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite and fatigue.

Coronary artery disease, which is a narrowing of the small blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the heart, is the most common cause of heart failure. Diseases like emphysema and severe anemia can also contribute to heart failure. 

A healthy lifestyle, which may include watching your diet and getting proper exercise, often provides a “preventative” program. Recommended diets include foods low in sodium and salt – which can mean avoiding such staples as cured meats, bacon, sausages, ham, cheese, salt, and bottled dressings. Also, limit the use of such spices as pepper and garlic. Patients are urged to lose weight. And smokers are strongly urged to quit. 

Under medical supervision, there are multiple medications which can open blood vessels and decrease the workload of the heart. Diuretics can help the body eliminate fluid and salt, and beta blockers can improve the heart’s pumping ability. There are also medications which help the heart muscle contract properly and treat heart rhythm disturbances.