Congestive Heart Failure, or CHF, is a chronic health condition that affects the heart’s ability to pump blood out of the heart efficiently. The body does not receive an adequate amount of oxygen-rich blood. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), about half of the people who are diagnosed with CHF die within 5 years of diagnosis. More than 5.7 million Americans are living with Congestive Heart Failure and about 55, 000 deaths occur each year due to this disease. Heart Failure can be either left sided or right sided. The heart muscle loses its ability to pump blood out or becomes so stiff that the chambers of the heart do not fill up easily with blood.
Signs and Symptoms of CHF include:
- Swelling in the feet or ankles
- Shortness of breath
- Weight gain (Due to fluid retention)
- Loss of appetite
- Urge to urinate in the middle of the night
- Fast pulse
During training, we teach our caregivers to recognize the obvious characteristics of Congestive Heart Failure. Patients with CHF will develop noticeable distended neck veins and begin to have crackles in the lungs that can be heard with a stethoscope. A patient’s breaths may become faster and labored and you will also see an increase in pulse if the patient has CHF. Because the heart is pumping inadequately, the client will start to gain weight because fluid is being retained. This is a sign that the heart failure is worsening. Our caregivers are taught to improve the client’s condition by limiting the client’s salt intake, encouraging physical activity and allowing rest periods, limiting fluid intake, and elevating the lower extremities such as the legs and feet.