Heart Failure Diagnosis
16 Questions to Ask After a Heart Failure Diagnosis
A diagnosis of heart failure (sometimes referred to as congestive heart failure) is scary for everyone involved -- both the patient and his or her caregivers. You're certain to have lots of questions about the condition and what needs to be done to manage it. That's OK; the main thing is to feel comfortable asking as many questions as you need to -- and to get answers you understand. Bring a pen and paper to all medical appointments, and take notes on important points. If you get an answer you don't understand, it's important to ask the doctor or nurse to slow down and tell you in simpler terms.
1. Is there something we could have done to prevent this?
Why it's important: You'll be worried about this diagnosis, and hearing the answer can be reassuring and help you understand how the condition occurred.
2. What are your expectations?
Why it's important: Heart failure is a progressive disease, yet many effective treatments are available that can control symptoms and even reverse damage. So knowing what to expect in terms of both disease progression and recovery will help you monitor treatment and determine which way things are going.
3. Is this condition going to be fatal and, if so, how much time does my loved one have?
Why it's important: Some caregivers find it painful to look too far into the future, but many prefer to get the straight scoop, so they can plan ahead.
4. What are the danger signs we need to watch for?
Why it's important: As a caregiver, you're likely to notice dangerous developments such as fluid buildup, arrhythmias, and breathing difficulties. Knowing exactly what red flags to watch for will make it much easier to know when to call the doctor or head for the ER.
5. What's the goal of treatment; what are we shooting for?
Why it's important: Knowing what the doctor is looking for in terms of improvement, and what signs to monitor, is essential in order to know if the person you're caring for is, in fact, getting better or not. As a caregiver, you need to feel empowered to say that treatment isn't working if you see your loved one not getting better, or even getting worse.
6. What can I do to make the person I'm caring for feel better?
Why it's important: The doctor may be in charge of treatment, but you're in charge of keeping your loved one comfortable and helping him or her feel as good as possible each day. The doctor -- and particularly the heart failure nurses -- should be able to suggest strategies to help your loved one sleep, eat, and feel better, so he or she can have the best possible quality of life.
7. What are the best ways we can measure my loved one's condition?
Why it's important: Heart failure is a condition that requires consistent monitoring. You'll probably be asked to weigh and measure the person you're caring for frequently, check blood pressure, and possibly take other measures as well. Make sure you know your loved one's baseline numbers so you can keep track of changes.
8. What might these measures look like in six months if treatment is effective?
Why it's important: For many caregivers, having concrete goals to shoot for makes it easier to do the day-to-day work of following the doctor's treatment and lifestyle instructions. For example, if keeping to a low-sodium diet does indeed bring your loved one's blood pressure down, that's positive reinforcement for sticking to the plan.