How To Care The Best With Atrial Fibrillation

 

Atrial Fibrillation

Caring for an elderly with atrial fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation is a condition, characterized by irregular and fast-paced heartbeat. Anyone at any age can suffer from atrial fibrillation. However, the risk of developing this condition increases as one age. Your aging loved ones are at the highest risk of suffering from atrial fibrillation. Your aging loved ones suffering from atrial fibrillation is certainly not a favorable condition. As this puts them at great risk of having a stroke.

Understanding the problems and risks of atrial fibrillation

With atrial fibrillation, there is fast-paced heart rhythm. This does not allow the heart to pump blood throughout the body, the way it would normally have done. As a result of this improper blood flow, blood clots can form in certain parts of the heart. This is a dangerous condition, as the clot can get stuck in the blood vessels of the brain, causing a stroke. To prevent a stroke, the doctor will prescribe blood thinners. However, this also has its share of disadvantages. Blood thinners can cause bleeding from injuries and falls, which can turn fatal. Therefore, doctors should carefully monitor such patients at regular intervals. So that they get the correct medicine dosage to prevent complications.

Types of atrial fibrillation

  • Paroxysmal

This is when your heart goes in and out of normal rhythm for less than a week.

  • Persistent

Can usually last longer than a week. It might stop on its own, but it’s possible you could need medicine or treatment to stop it.

  • Long-standing persistent

This means your AFib has lasted for more than a year and doesn’t go away.

  • Permanent

Can not be corrected by treatments. If you have this type, you and your doctor will decide whether or not you may need long-term medication to control your heart rate and lower your risk of stroke.

  • Valvular

This means that your AFib is caused by a heart valve problem.

  • Nonvalvular

It is atrial fibrillation that isn’t caused by a problem with a heart valve.

Symptoms of atrial fibrillation

Your aging loved one with atrial fibrillation would experience the following symptoms:
  • Increased heartbeat

This is the classical symptom of atrial fibrillation. And often the main criteria for diagnosing the condition. If you are a caregiver for an elderly who are experiencing irregular heartbeats. Make sure you regularly check their pulse rate.
  • Shortness of breath

This is often a common complaint of atrial fibrillation. Shortness of breath can occur due to many reasons. Whether it is climbing stairs or lifting any heavy object. This all qualify for breathlessness at an older age. However, if this is a new symptom or the condition seems to worsen. Then consult a doctor immediately.
  • Lightheadedness

If your loved one complains of lightheadedness after performing a mild activity. Then it can indicate the onset of atrial fibrillation. In such cases, it is best to check their pulse rate.
  • Swelling of the shins

Swelling of the shins is not a very common symptom of atrial fibrillation. However, if this occurs, then it can be a sign of atrial fibrillation. And consulting the doctor would become necessary.
Caring for a senior with atrial fibrillation requires proper knowledge on the part of the caregiver. Carefully understanding the signs and symptoms of the disease. This will go a long way in appropriately managing the disease condition.

Signs to look for a stroke

Caregivers have an important role to play in helping aging loved ones live with atrial fibrillation. While caring for someone with atrial fibrillation, it is important that you keep a close check on their medications. And also be vigilant for the signs of stroke. Here are the major warning signs of stroke:
  • Face drooping

Ask the person to smile, and see if one side is drooping. One side of the face may also be numb, and the smile may appear uneven.
  • Arm weakness

Ask the person to raise both arms. Is there weakness or numbness on one side? One arm drifting downward is a sign of one-sided arm weakness.
  • Speech difficulty

People having a stroke may slur their speech or have trouble speaking at all. Speech may be incomprehensible. Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence and look for any speech abnormality.

Other possible signs and symptoms of a stroke

  • Weakness or paralysis of any other parts of the body
  • Numbing sensation anywhere in the body
  • Trouble walking or loss of balance and coordination
  • Vision changes or trouble with eyesight in one or both eyes
  • Dizziness
  • A severe headache that is unlike another headache in the past
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty swallowing

Tips to take care of an aging loved one with atrial fibrillation

If you notice any of the above signs in your aging loved one with atrial fibrillation. CALL 911 IMMEDIATELY! As a caregiver, you need to adopt a holistic approach. To take care of your elderly with atrial fibrillation. While on one hand, you need to look for signs of stroke. And also keep a close eye on their medications. But, on the other hand, you are also required them to adopt certain lifestyle adjustments.

Lifestyle changes your loved one should follow

  • Reduce the intake of caffeine and alcohol
  • Stop smoking
  • Exercise regular is a must to stay active
  • Keep weight under check
  • Follow a low sodium and low-fat diet
  • Avoid all activities that cause stress
  • Practice meditation such as breathing exercises and yoga

Foods to avoid

  • Salty foods
  • Sugary foods
  • Aged or preserved foods
  • Caffeine
  • Leafy greens
  • Citrus fruit
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Saturated fatty meats
  • Whole fat dairy products
  • Fried foods
  • White rice
  • Frozen beverages

Fall prevention

With advancing age, the risk of falls increases to a great extent. However, this is not safe for your aging loved one with atrial fibrillation. This can cause an increased risk of bleeding, due to the blood thinner medications. Caregivers are usually the first person to identify any change in symptoms. This may in some way increase the risk of falls. Installing grab bars in the bathroom and anywhere else needed. Also, put down as anti-slip mats in the kitchen. And safe proof the entire house. This can also help in preventing sudden falls.

Conclusion

Atrial fibrillation is a chronic, debilitating condition. Which makes life difficult for our aging loved ones. With proper knowledge and care, we as caregivers can do a lot for our elderly to lead a healthy and fulfilling life with this limiting disease.  Also, for more information, check out this post on congestive heart failure. For additional help with your caregiving problems, please contact me so that I can help you.
Atrial Fibrillation

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