Palliative care for heart failure

September 23, 2023 Dementia Care, Palliative care

Palliative care for heart failure

What is heart failure?

Heart failure is a is a gradual weakening of the heart and chronic condition in which the heart is unable to pump blood effectively around the body as well as it should. This does not mean that the heart has completely stopped working; rather, it means the heart is not functioning at its optimal capacity. Thus, the heart may need support to help it work better.

There are 2 main types of heart failure. First, a systolic heart failure which where the heart’s main pumping chamber (the left ventricle) becomes weakened and cannot contract effectively. The second is diastolic heart failure where the heart muscles become stiff and less flexible, making it harder for the ventricles to fill with blood during the relaxation phase of the cardiac cycle.

Symptoms of heart failure

Symptoms of heart failure may develop slowly but can also start suddenly. Some of the symptoms are:

  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath when you’re active or resting
  • Swelling in your feet and ankles which can spread to your lower body.
  • A new persistent cough

Treatment for heart failure

Treatment for heart failure typically involves a combination of lifestyle changes, medication, and in some cases, surgical intervention, or medical devices to help the heart work more efficiently. Lifestyle changes can include dietary modifications, exercise, and reducing factors that worsen heart failure, such as smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.

When does heart failure become palliative?

Various treatments can help manage symptoms and slow the disease’s progression. However, as it is a chronic condition with no cure, over time, people diagnosed with this disease will reach the final stages of heart failure.

Often, it is unclear when those suffering from heart failure are approaching end of life. However, when a patient has a life expectancy of 6 to 12 months or less, it means that they have reached end-stage heart failure and are supported with palliative care.

Palliative care for heart failure

Palliative care for heart failure is a specialized approach to care that focuses on improving the quality of life for individuals with advanced heart failure, as well as providing support to their families. The primary goal of palliative care in heart failure is to relieve symptoms, manage discomfort, address emotional and psychological needs, and enhance the overall well-being of patients.

Early conversations and care planning

Starting conversations about palliative care early makes sure that the person’s wishes are met. This can include care planning discussions with the patients about healthcare goals, preferences of life-sustaining treatments and decisions regarding resuscitation. Allowing the patient to have direct input ensures that everyone involved in the care understands the goals of care.

Symptom management

As symptoms worsen over time, managing them is a central aspect of palliative care for heart failure. This includes addressing common symptoms such as breathlessness, pain, fatigue, swelling, and anxiety. Medications and other interventions are used to alleviate these symptoms and enhance comfort.

Timing of palliative care

It is important to note that palliative care can be introduced at any stage of heart failure, not just in the end stages, and it can be provided concurrently with curative or disease-modifying treatments. The focus is on improving the patient’s quality of life and ensuring that their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs are addressed.

Tailored and patient-centered care

Palliative care for heart failure is tailored to the individual’s unique circumstances and preferences. It aims to enhance comfort, dignity, and overall well-being while respecting the person’s values and goals of care.

How can Cavendish Homecare help?

At Cavendish Homecare we are experts in providing palliative homecare for individuals with terminal illnesses who want to remain in their own homes. We work to support the patients and their families with sensitive and comforting palliative care in London.

If you would like to enquire about our palliative care, contact us on, 020 3008 5210 or email us at

About the Author…

Mairead Liston

Registered Nurse and Founder of Cavendish Homecare

Mairead Liston, a dedicated figure in healthcare, began her journey as a nurse and midwife, laying the foundation for a remarkable career. Driven by passion and expertise, Mairead established a successful nursing agency, serving as a crucial staffing resource for major hospitals in London and the UK.

In 2010, Mairead founded Cavendish Homecare with a mission to provide exceptional care in the comfort of people’s homes. Mairead’s areas of expertise encompass palliative and end of life care, post-operative care, and cancer care, ensuring the delivery of the highest quality of care to her clients.

Her transformative impact is exemplified through prestigious awards, including the ‘Lifetime Achievement’ award and the Chief Nursing Officer in Adult Social Care Silver award, recognising her dedicated service to social care.

By becoming a member of the Guild of Freemen of the City of London, Mairead not only emphasises her active support for both current and future nurses but also plays a vital role in contributing to the ongoing evolution of the nursing profession.

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