The American Heart Association reports that nearly 6 million Americans have some form of heart disease. It’s one of the top reasons why people over the age of 65 are taken to the hospital.
While it’s important that a medical professional make the diagnosis, there are signs to look for if you suspect that someone under your care may be experiencing heart failure.
Start With the Definition
Heart failure is the term used to describe a condition. It means that the heart is weakened and is not pumping blood as well as it should. When the heart can’t do its job, our kidneys cause the body to retain salt and water. Fluid builds up and our body becomes congested. This becomes known as congestive heart failure.
Heart failure in seniors causes shortness of breath, fatigue, and coughing.
Heart failure is usually diagnosed because someone experiences more than one of the following symptoms:
- Shortness of breath. Pay attention of a senior complains of difficulty breathing while they’re lying flat.
- Persistent wheezing or coughing. Pay attention if this coughing produces pink or white mucus.
- Edema. Pay attention if a senior complains of swelling in their feet, ankles, legs, or abdomen.
- Fatigue. Pay attention if a senior tells you they’re feeling tired all the time, or if they’re suddenly feeling fatigued by everyday activities like walking.
- Appetite changes. Pay attention if a senior tells you they feel nauseated, or if they lose their appetite.
- Impaired thinking. Pay attention if a senior suddenly appears to be confused—especially if it’s accompanied by memory loss.
- Increased heart rate. Pay attention if a senior tells you they feel as if their heart is throbbing or racing.
We all have days when we just don’t feel right, so it’s usually nothing to be concerned about if a senior tells you they’re experiencing one of these symptoms. They’re all signs of possible heart failure, but each can be caused by many other things.
On the other hand, if you notice multiple symptoms, it’s wise to seek out a medical professional. Heart failure is a serious condition. There’s often no cure, but heart failure in seniors can be treated and managed with medications.
You’ve probably heard it said that the older you get, the less sleep you need. It’s why seniors are such early birds. There’s another reason why seniors get up early, and often wake up repeatedly all night.
Often, seniors in nursing care homes are living with chronic pain. Sleeping in a position that doesn’t support their body creates pressure that amplifies the pain. A better night’s sleep can be as close as applying a few of these simple tips to align and support the body.
Start with Comfort and Alignment
When we’re younger, an aligned and neutral sleeping position keeps our spines straight and our lower backs in a natural slightly curved position. This comfortable alignment may not work for seniors.
Kyphosis, or rounded back will prevent seniors from being able to lie flat on their back. For them, an aligned and neutral sleeping position is going to be on their side with their spine supported for a curve—rather than straightened.
Some of the tips offered here call for pillows. Try a folded blanket or a rolled towel before you invest in additional pillows.
Are They a Side Sleeper?
- Reduce pressure on the upper shoulder by adding a pillow under that arm
- Use enough pillows to raise the head and maintain a neutral position that aligns the spine with the neck
- Add a pillow between the knees to align the pelvis, hips, and spine
Are They a Back Sleeper?
- Use a thin pillow under the head to prevent forward bending of the neck
- Add a pillow under the knees, which will help to keep the lower back in a neutral position
Are They a Stomach Sleeper?
Sleeping on your stomach isn’t a good idea because it’s hard on the back—but many people prefer this position.
- Seniors with degenerative disk disease may prefer this position because it offers ease from the pain
- Consider not using a pillow at all for their head
- Instead, put a thin pillow under the stomach or pelvis areas
Do They Prefer a Reclining Chair Instead of a Bed?
Sleeping in this position helps relieve the pain of isthmic spondylolisthesis, which seniors can suffer from. The reclined position helps to remove pressure on the spine.
- You can mimic a reclining chair by using a bed wedge. It’s less expensive than an adjustable bed
Helping seniors to get a good night’s sleep has an important additional benefit. You’ll finally get some rest, too.