February is American Heart Month and a great time to highlight the benefits of hospice care to people experiencing cardiac disease.
End-Stage Cardiac Disease not only tasks patients physically – pain, shortness of breath, reoccurring hospitalizations - but often plays into a patient’s anxiety level and presents struggles emotionally. The multi-disciplinary approach to care being physical, psychosocial and spiritual allows hospice teams to excel at managing symptoms, appropriately adjusting medications to maintain stability of the patient, eliminate hospital admissions, and enable patients to get back to enjoying their activities of daily life.
End stage cardiac patients are often appropriate for hospice care when they meet three or more of the following conditions, including when they are at the optimal point of treatment with diuretics and vasodilators, resistant to nitrate therapy, not considered a candidate or decline invasive procedures, unable to carry on physical activities without symptoms, have a history of cardiac arrest or resuscitation, experience unexplained syncopal episodes, or have an ejection fraction of 20% of less.
When making a hospice referral, physicians believe that a patient’s prognosis is six months or less under normal disease progression, however with the intervention of a hospice team, patients facing these diagnoses often outlive that prognosis because of the successful management of their symptoms. Patients may continue to be appropriate for hospice services beyond the six months prognosis when they still meet the Medicare criteria for their illness.
Patients with end stage cardiac diagnoses should consult with their healthcare providers regarding treatment options and weighing the benefits of each one. Education and open conversation between patients, physicians and hospice teams allow for informed decision making. Accepting care from a hospice team isn’t about giving up or beginning the dying process, but rather a level of care provided to patients living with a life limiting illness, who are seeking symptom management focusing on quality of life and living.
Have questions on hospice? Call our education line at 412.710.7300.