After being hospitalized for heart failure, you may return home to find that you have many changes to make to your lifestyle and are feeling a range of difficult emotions. Despite the many new things you are facing, this is a time to focus on your heart health and make immediate changes. Heart failure patients are at high risk for hospital readmission, with at least half of patients readmitted to the hospital within 6 months of discharge after a heart failure hospitalization. Carefully managing your heart failure at home and in ongoing cooperation with your heart failure care team will increase your chances of avoiding hospital readmission.
The following tips will help you make a successful transition home from the hospital after admission for heart failure.
Many heart failure patients struggle to take proper care of themselves when they get home because they did not fully understand their discharge instructions at the hospital. This is understandable. A lot of information will be coming at you very quickly. Don’t be afraid to ask your healthcare providers to repeat something they may have said or try to explain it to you in a different way. Take notes and keep any discharge papers and information sheets in a place where you can easily access them.
Find Out Who You Should Contact in the Event of Heart Failure Warning Signs
Be sure you leave the hospital understanding who you should call in the event of sudden weight gain, swelling in the legs or abdomen, or other heart failure warning signs. Keep contact phone numbers for your care team at the hospital in a place where you or a family member can easily access the information.
Take Medications Exactly as Prescribed
Taking your medications properly will be very important in managing heart failure. Sometimes patients experience medication side effects and decide to stop taking their medicine. A better and safer approach is to keep taking medications as prescribed but to contact the doctor who prescribed them as soon as possible. This is because suddenly stopping a medication can potentially be dangerous. Your doctor will advise you as to your next steps.
If you cannot afford your medications, not filling your prescription, skipping doses or taking partial doses are not safe solutions. Contact your doctor, social worker or case manager from your heart failure care team at the hospital.
Keep Follow-Up Appointments
Staying in contact with your care team is important to success in managing heart failure. Your physician can monitor how you are doing. Additionally, be sure to take advantage of the availability of social workers, mental health professionals, dietitians, smoking cessation teams, occupational therapists, cardiac rehabilitation programs and other professionals and programs that can support you in managing your heart health.
Make Lifestyle Changes Today
You may find that you need to change your diet and your exercise habits, quit smoking and make changes to a number of other deeply engrained habits. This is hard. It is natural to want to get back to your normal life. However, beginning to make changes as soon as you get home will prevent you from thinking you’ll make the changes soon, only to find that weeks or months have passed. Not making the necessary lifestyle changes can increase your risk of worsening heart failure and hospital readmission.
Sudden weight gain can be an indication of worsening heart failure. We invite you to use the SecondsCount Weight Log to keep track of your weight each day. This is an important step in catching worsening heart failure before readmission to the hospital becomes necessary.