Heart Disease: When is it Time to Seek Palliative Care?

Even with recent medical advances, heart disease remains the number one killer around the world. Many people mistakenly believe that heart disease means a quick death. They think that most people suffer a major cardiac event precipitating a rapid death, usually with no preliminary symptoms. However, in most situations, that is not the case.

heart disease

In reality, heart disease is a slow killer and is the result of the heart gradually weakening and failing. Concurrently, the sufferer undergoes a gradual weakening of the body, an inability to breath, movement becomes difficult, the legs and extremities begin to swell and the person feels an overwhelming fatigue. Death by heart disease can take weeks, months or even years. During that time period, the patient often endures debilitating discomfort and suffering and, at its end stages, it is often beneficial to seek palliative care.  

Palliative care is a multi-disciplinary approach to administering to the terminally or chronically ill.  Medications, day-to-day care, equipment, bereavement counseling, and symptom treatment are administered through a single channel.  While it is most commonly administered in an institutional setting such as a hospice or nursing home, there are situations where it can be done from home.  

More and more heart disease patients are opting for ending their lives in the comfortable surroundings of their home.  This is especially the case for the elderly who are often too frail to be moved successfully. Palliative care providers are able to focus specifically on providing relief and reducing the stress involved with heart disease. Care is monitored by a specially-trained team of doctors, nurses, and other specialists who understand how to treat the specific symptoms of heart disease and can help improve your overall quality of life.

Patients suffering from end-stage heart disease rarely receive adequate, high-quality end-of-life care because there is really no way to predict exactly when the end will come. Physicians often cannot estimate how long a patient will suffer from heart disease before a cardiac event or complications from the disease ultimately takes their life.

A recent New York Times article reports that more than other diseases, physicians have trouble discussing palliative care with cardiac patients.  This may be due to a number of factors like the lack of predictive measures for event occurrence as well as the optimism of both the patient and the doctor that they have more time left than is really the case.  There is a general discomfort by the physicians with respect to talking to them about end-of-life issues for fear of being too negative.  As such, the sufferer often puts off end-stage planning and seeking needed palliative care because their physician has never discussed the situation openly and honestly.

Patients and their loved ones need to know that palliative care can provide a much-needed additional layer of support to those with heart disease. They also need to know that palliative care can be received by patients at any time and at any stage of illness whether it be terminal or not.

If you or a loved one suffers from heart disease, don’t wait until it is too late to seek palliative care. At the David York Agency, we are dedicated to providing the resources, advice, and high-quality home health aide services that can make living with heart disease more manageable.

For more information on David York Home Healthcare Agency’s qualified, compassionate caregivers, contact us at 718.376.7755. A free phone consultation can help you decide what services might be best to provide you and your loved one with the support you need to manage the symptoms and struggles of living with heart disease. If you’d like to hear more from us, please like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter, Google+ or LinkedIn. For additional information about the risk factors of heart disease or about getting in-home care for a loved one, contact us today.