Atrial fibrillation, also known as AFib, is a common heart condition among aging adults. It happens when the two upper chambers of the heart, called the atria, don’t beat in rhythm with the ventricles, or the lower two chambers of the heart. When this happens, the heart rate can become abnormally high, but the individual will still have poor blood circulation throughout the body. The most serious complication resulting from atrial fibrillation is the formation of blood clots, which can lead to strokes. Keep reading to find out about the signs and symptoms, risk factors, diagnosis, and treatment options available for AFib.
Signs & Symptoms
The most common symptoms of atrial fibrillation include breathlessness, heart palpitations, and fatigue. Seniors with this condition also report feeling light-headed, dizzy, or confused, and some may have pain or tightness in the chest. There may also be a drop in blood pressure.
Risk factors for atrial fibrillation include age (the risk increases as a senior gets older) and a family history of the condition. If your loved one’s personal medical history includes elevated blood pressure, heart attacks, cardiac surgery, viral infections, emphysema, or sleep apnea, his or her risk of developing atrial fibrillation is even greater.
If your loved one has been diagnosed with AFib or may be at risk for the condition, he or she may need assistance around the home. Living independently is important for seniors who want to maintain a high quality of life. For some, this simply means receiving help with tasks that have become more challenging to manage over time. Even when families have the best intentions, they may not have the time to provide the care their elderly loved ones need and deserve. If your loved one needs help for a few hours a day or a few days a week, reach out to Home Care Assistance, a trusted provider of respite care McKinney seniors can depend on.
To diagnose atrial fibrillation, your loved one’s doctor will review your parent’s symptoms and medical history along with conducting a physical examination. The physician may also order several diagnostic tests, such as:
- Electrocardiogram (ECG) – The primary tool used to diagnose AFib, an ECG uses small electrodes to record electrical signals as they travel through the heart.
- Holter monitor – This is a portable ECG device that’s carried or worn and records the heart’s activity, providing the doctor with a consistent picture of your parent’s heart rhythms.
- Echocardiogram – This test uses sound waves to generate moving images of the heart, and it’s particularly effective at diagnosing blood clots and structural heart disease.
- Blood tests – These help doctors detect issues such as thyroid disease that may cause atrial fibrillation.
- Chest X-ray – X-rays can help the doctor visually evaluate the condition of your parent’s heart and lungs.
There are a variety of age-related health conditions that can make it more challenging for seniors to live independently. However, many of the challenges they face can be easier to manage if their families opt for professional senior care. McKinney families can rely on expertly trained caregivers to keep their loved ones safe and comfortable while aging in place.
What to Do
If your loved one is experiencing any of the symptoms listed above or has any of the risk factors for AFib, consult his or her doctor to determine if atrial fibrillation is the problem and come up with a plan of treatment for it. If your loved one is diagnosed with AFib, the doctor may prescribe one or more of the most common medications used to treat this condition: antiarrhythmics (which prevent an irregular heartbeat), blood thinners (which prevent clotting), and digoxin (which slows the heart rate).
Atrial fibrillation is a serious condition, so don’t wait if you suspect your loved one may have it. Also, keep in mind this condition is very treatable with the proper combination of medication and lifestyle changes.
Caring for a senior loved one can be challenging for families who don’t have expertise or professional training in home care, but this challenge doesn’t have to be faced alone. Family caregivers can turn to Home Care Assistance for the help they need. We provide high-quality live-in and respite care as well as comprehensive Alzheimer’s, dementia, stroke, and Parkinson’s care. Trust Home Care Assistance to provide high-quality compassionate, professional home care for your loved one. Call one of our friendly Care Managers today at (972) 548-0392.