February is American Heart Month, and heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. It’s, therefore, no surprise that a large percentage of Hospice patients are living with heart disease. Even if heart disease is not the primary diagnosis, many terminally ill patients will experience end-stage congestive heart failure. While the primary purpose of American Heart Month is to raise awareness and fund research, Hospice of Orange & Sullivan Counties would also like to raise awareness of the physical, spiritual, and emotional care we provide to patients suffering from end-stage heart failure, as well as their families.

Hardships caused by end-stage heart failure extend beyond physical discomfort. Congestive heart failure can lead to many costly hospital visits during the final months of a patient’s life. By removing the patient from the comfort and safety of home, these stays can also cause psychological and emotional duress. Hospice care for heart disease at home or in a contracted nursing facility reduces such stress by providing the same symptom management a patient would receive in a hospital but in familiar surroundings. Click here to learn about planning for advanced heart failure.

For the families of patients with end-stage heart failure, a Hospice care team provides education and training on administering medication and utilizing medical equipment necessary for management of congestive heart failure. This ensures the patient receives the greatest benefit, while increasing patient and family understanding of the diagnosis, care plan, and prognosis. For more on Hospice care and heart disease, click here.

When assessing a cardiac patient’s eligibility for Hospice care, the following symptoms are considered: A poor response to diuretics, difficulty or labored breathing, chest pain, changes in appetite, unintentional weight loss, impaired sleep functions, and decline in general physical endurance. Only a physician can determine if a patient with congestive heart failure qualifies for Hospice, but if you recognize the symptoms in yourself or a loved one, it may be time to learn about the next steps in seeking Hospice care. Click here to learn more about determining the need for Hospice care.

As with all Hospice services, care for end-stage heart failure extends beyond the patient. A team of aides, nurses, social workers, bereavement specialists, chaplains, and volunteers work alongside patient and family to address the physical and emotional symptoms of congestive heart failure and provide spiritual support. By combining clinical care with an understanding of personal needs, Hospice of Orange & Sullivan Counties helps heart disease patients to live the final months of life.