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February 29, 2016

Health matters: Living with advanced cardiac disease
Danvers Herald

by Stephanie Patel, MD

February is American Heart Month, a time to take preventative measures to care for your cardiovascular system and learn more about living with cardiac disease.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as many as 5.8 million people in the U.S. suffer from heart failure and one in five people who have heart failure will die within one year of diagnosis. These statistics can be daunting, but for those living with advanced cardiac disease there are ways to improve quality of life and make each day more manageable.

Take “Mrs G.”, for example, an 89-year-old woman living at home, diagnosed with congestive heart failure. Over the last six months, she’s been experiencing more chest pain and breathing distress, has difficulty walking and suffers from debilitating fatigue. During this time she’s been to the emergency room three times for shortness of breath, chest pain and anxiety. She wants to stop the back and forth visits to the emergency room, but she and her family don’t know how to manage her symptoms at home.

For Mrs. G. and patients like her, Care Dimensions has developed a specialized cardiac program that provides a customized care plan to help patients and caregivers manage the symptoms of heart disease and other cardiac conditions at home while minimizing the recurrence of medical crises that typically require emergency room visits or hospitalization. The benefits of this program are many and include:
 

  • Daily phone calls or assessment visits
  • Access to telehealth monitoring devices to track daily vital signs and symptoms
  • An interdisciplinary care team
  • On call nurse available 24/7
  • Access to the Kaplan Family Hospice House for acute chest pain, shortness of breath to avoid ER visits and hospitalizations
  • Education and resources including symptom management procedures to guide patients and caregivers to better control symptoms at home.

This unique program encourages collaboration between the hospice clinical team and the patient’s primary care physician and cardiologist to develop an optimal plan of care. Another important aspect of the program, designed to reduce stress, aid in relaxation and promote a better sense of well-being is the inclusion of complementary therapies such as massage, pet therapy, Reiki and expressive art or music therapy.

Who is eligible? Typically people with advanced heart disease who have any two of the following symptoms are eligible for the cardiac hospice program through Care Dimensions:
 

  • Recurrent heart failure causing frequent hospitalizations and ER visits
  • Irregular heart rhythms resistant to treatment
  • Increased shortness of breath and chest pain despite treatment
  • A history of unexplained fainting
  • Stroke

After Mrs. G. and her family met with her physician they decided to enlist the support of Care Dimensions. The interdisciplinary hospice team from Care Dimensions worked with Mrs. G. and her family to determine if medical equipment, such as a hospital bed, oxygen and nebulizer were needed. They monitored her condition daily to make medication adjustments and stay on top of her symptoms. Mrs. G.’s family reported a feeling of relief once she entered the cardiac program due to the ongoing support and monitoring from the team. In addition, Mrs. G. noticed an improvement in her energy level and a reduction in symptoms associated with her disease.

For information: 888-283-1722; info@CareDimensions.org; CareDimensions.org.
Stephanie Patel is the vice president and chief medical officer of Care Dimensions.


Since 1978, Care Dimensions has provided comprehensive and compassionate care for individuals and families dealing with life-threatening illnesses. As the non-profit leader in advanced illness care, we offer services in more than 90 communities in Eastern Massachusetts.