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Heart Failure - End-of-Life Decisions

Palliative care

As your heart failure gets worse, you may want to think about palliative care. It's a kind of care for people who have illnesses that don't go away and often get worse over time. It's different than care to cure your illness. But some people combine both types of care.

Palliative care:

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Understanding Heart Failure -- Diagnosis and Treatment

Doctors diagnose heart failure by taking a medical history and conducting a physical exam and tests.  During the medical history your doctor will want to know if: You have any other health problems such as diabetes, kidney disease, angina (chest pain), high blood pressure, or other heart problems You smoke You drink alcohol, and if so, how much You are taking medications. During the physical, the doctor will check your blood pressure, use a stethoscope to hear sounds associated...

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  • May improve your quality of life—not just in your body, but also in your mind and spirit.
  • May help you manage symptoms or side effects from treatment.
  • Can help you cope with your feelings about living with a long-term illness.
  • Can help you make plans around your medical care.
  • Can help your family better understand your illness and how to support you.

If you are interested in palliative care, talk to your doctor. He or she may be able to manage your care or refer you to a doctor who specializes in this type of care.

For more information, see the topic Palliative Care.

End-of-life care

Heart failure tends to get worse over time. So you need to decide what kind of care you want at the end of your life.

It can be hard to have talks with your doctor and family about the end of your life. But making these decisions now may bring you and your family peace of mind. Your family won't have to wonder what you want. And you can spend your time focusing on your relationships.

You will need to decide if you want life-support measures if your health gets very bad. An advance directive is a legal document that tells doctors how to care for you at the end of your life. This care includes electronic devices that are used for heart failure, such as pacemakers. You also can say where you want to have care. And you can name someone who can make sure your wishes are followed.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: March 12, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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