8 Keys to Managing Arrhythmia
Whether your parent has tachycardia (rapid heartbeat), bradycardia (slow heartbeat), or fibrillation (chaotic, very rapid heartbeat), managing his arrhythmia will help him live a longer, more active life. Here are some practical ways you can help
Keep track of medications and side effects.
One of the keys to managing an arrhythmia is taking medications consistently and according to instructions. Know which drugs your parent needs to take, how often he should take them, and what he should do if he misses a dose.
If your parent lives alone, you might fill a pillbox with the medications he needs to take. These plastic containers, with seven compartments labeled for each day of the week, are available at your local pharmacy, usually near the prescription counter. You can also post a medication schedule on his refrigerator or in his bathroom so he can check off each dose as he takes it.
If your parent has trouble following the schedule, consider purchasing an automated medication dispenser. These locked devices automatically dispense pills at preprogrammed times. When it's time to take a dose, the dispenser will remind your parent with an audible alarm and flashing light. For a list of available dispensers, visit Technology for Long Term Care.
Some antiarrhythmic drugs, like amiodarone, need to be monitored very closely for serious side effects. Be sure to check in with the doctor regularly about all of your parent's medications.
Know when to call for help.
Your parent's doctor should give you instructions for when to call her office or 911, but here are some general guidelines.
Call the doctor if:
- Your parent reports changes in heart rhythm, such as more frequent heartbeats or missed beats.
- Your parent's resting heart rate is lower than 50 or higher than 120 beats per minute.
- Your parent has an implantable defibrillator and receives more than one shock in a row or doesn't feel well after a shock.
- Your parent shows any signs of heart failure.
Call 911 if:
- Your parent suddenly loses consciousness.
- Your parent complains of shortness of breath, chest pain, unusual sweating, dizziness, or lightheadedness.