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Each February during American Heart Month, the American Heart Association and home healthcare providers, like Palmeira Home + Health, stress the importance of awareness, prevention, and effective treatment for heart disease since it is the leading cause of death for both men and women. In fact, 2,300 Americans die of cardiovascular disease every day.

Even though heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, it is also one of the most preventable conditions. With the aging of our population, our healthcare system is now putting increased emphasis on controllable risk factors such as inactivity, poor nutrition, obesity and smoking. A study from the Journal of the American College of Cardiology showed that the risk of heart disease decreases more with each positive lifestyle change.

“For those living with heart disease, effective management of the condition is a team effort that includes the patient, physician, in-home care provider, and the family, “explains Palmeira CEO Gen Barter. “Most people with heart disease prefer to remain in the comfort of their own home rather than move to a nursing home or other care community. Families want to honor their loved one’s choice—but they worry about whether their loved one is safe living independently.”

According to Barter, family members also should consider the demands of their caregiving tasks. Studies show that caregiving can be hard on the health of caregivers—and that includes heart health. So for the good of the person with heart disease and family caregivers alike, it’s important to take advantage of available and skilled support services. For many families, this includes the help of in-home care professionals. In-home care providers assist clients with a heart-healthy lifestyle, including:

Medication management. Most heart patients take medications—often, a number of medications, for their heart condition and other health problems. For these drugs to be effective, they must be taken as prescribed. But medication compliance can be a challenge. A professional care provider can help you manage medications and monitor for any side-effects or interactions.

Nutrition support. Your physician will most likely prescribe a special diet personalized for your condition. Working with instructions from the physician, a professional home care agency can help plan a heart-healthy diet that meets low-sodium, low-cholesterol and other requirements.

Physical activity. The old days when bed rest was the rule are over. We now know that inactivity is bad for our hearts. On the other hand, overexertion can be dangerous for those who have experienced a heart attack or who are living with congestive heart disease. That’s why your physician has “prescribed” a specific exercise regimen that is right for your specific needs. In-home care providers and physical therapists can help with exercises and provide watchful, non-intrusive supervision to give you greater confidence.

Hygiene and home safety. Low energy, shortness of breath, and fatigue can make household tasks and personal care a challenge. The doctor may recommend against more strenuous tasks, such as raking or lifting. Home health aides can clean the house, do laundry, and provide other home support tasks. They also can help with personal care such as bathing, dressing, and grooming. Feeling well-groomed, in clean surroundings, provides a real mood boost, and reduces stress for patient and family caregivers alike.

Avoiding and treating depression. Experts are learning more about the connection between heart disease and depression. Heart patients may be caught in a cycle: depression decreases their motivation to comply with treatment—which leads to a decline in their health…which in turn increases depression. The doctor may prescribe anti-depressant medications. And did you know that spending time with others is one of the best mood boosts? Professional caregivers provide companionship and the encouragement to be more active and socially connected: Board games? Sports programs? Music? Walking the family pet? You home health care provider can encourage participation in stimulating activities that lift the spirit.

Peace of mind for caregivers. When a loved one is recovering from a heart attack or dealing with chronic heart disease, it sometimes seems as if medical appointments fill every day of the calendar! And of course, the doctor’s hours and family caregivers’ working hours are usually the same. Other family and friends may offer to help—but as one daughter says, “I felt like I had used up all my favors, and hesitated to ask.” Using professional in-home health care allows family to concentrate on their other responsibilities, knowing their loved one is in good hands.

Home health care can be provided several hours a week up to full time, depending on your loved one’s needs and your schedule. The goal is to allow the patient the greatest independence possible without compromising the most effective heart disease management.

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