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Is there a time period for these stages? My 86 yr old father was diagnosed with congestive heart failure about 5 years ago . We are not sure what stage he is in or what to expect. Can anyone give me some information on this or tell me where to find some. I have checked online, but I didn't see anything about stages or a timelilne.
He also has dementia, so sometimes getting a straight answer from him about how he is feeling or if something is wrong, is tricky.
Can anyone give any info??
Thank you.

That is a very good question. I too would like to hear what others have experienced.

My father-in-law has not been "officially" diagnosed with CHF. He has had four different by-pass surgeries and three angioplasties. When he was at Cleveland Clinic for a new heart valve, they asked if anyone had diagnosed him with CHF, but didn’t confirm it there either. That was over five years ago and he is still going. Other physicians have asked the same question, but none has said it definitively. If he doesn’t take a mountain of medications swells up like a balloon. Also has beginning stages of dementia. Due to incontinence issues created by the medications, he is often not too pleasant to be around. He can't smell it and gets testy if we tell him he needs to go change. Refuses to wear protection no matter how it is presented to him. We never refer to them as adult diapers, although, that is how everyone perceives them. What is it with old people? I would think they want to preserve some semblance of dignity, but maybe the mind just doesn’t care any longer. However, my mother was 95 with severe dementia when she died and through the fog she ALWAYS wanted to be clean. I deeply appreciated and respected that about her, even if it wasn’t always easy.

My father-in-law lives with us. He can't go too far without being out of breath. He basically does sitting activities and, sadly, since the death of his wife, they include drinking. Breaks your heart. Along with being very frustrating on numerous levels, especially when the doctors don’t back us when we try to discourage its use with the medications. I too have wondered how much longer he can keep going. He is 86 and out lived his wife who died from dementia three years ago and my mother died last December at 95.........all have lived with us. We are becoming very knowledgeable in areas we never wanted to experience.

I hope someone out there can shed light on the CHF timeline. I know each person is an individual, but am finding there is a pattern to most of the illnesses.

Thank you in advance for you input and thanks for reading. This is a fantastic site and deeply appreciated by all of us who go through the trials and love while caring for loved ones.
Helpful Answer (31)
Reply to MANYBLESSINGS
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My dad is 86 and was diagnosed with congestive heart failure in 1995 or so. He has had some ok years, some very, very bad years and some fair years. 4 years ago he had respiratory failure from the CHF and ended up on a ventilator for 2 weeks. Noone thought he would survive but did and ended up having his aortic valve replaced a year and a half ago in an effort to better control his failure with medications. He had about 3 fairly good months and then we were right back into the cycle of gradual decline into failure, hospitalization, medication adjustments, etc, etc, etc. This year he was in the hospital for his CHF in Feb, March, April and May. After the valve replacement his heart function improved some but we found in May that it has gotten worse and he is now classified as end stage heart failure. What does that mean as far as a timeline? Who knows. He may go for several months without having any problems or he may go into failure next week. He is always in a state of heart failure, it's just how acute are his symptoms at any given time. Anymore, he goes downhill very fast. He doesn't want to go to the hospital anymore so we admitted him to hospice, knowing that we WILL reach a point of no return with his failure without hospital intervention and this gives us the ability to maintain his comfort at that point. There are stages and you can find the description of them on various websites when you look up congestive heart failure. His stage is Class IV and is determined by his symptoms, his other health issues, etc. It's a long road and very difficult to witness when they are at their worst. Thankfully, there has been more research into this disease process and they are finding better methods to control the symptoms. Ask your doctor if there is a heart failure clinic nearby that you could go to. These are overseen by cardiologists who specialize in CHF and usually run by nurse practitioners. It gives another level of care and their primary focus is managing the failure in an outpatient setting with frequent adjustment of medications based on patient symptoms, lab testing, etc. Dad was in one for about a year and I really did feel it reduced the number of times he could have been hospitalized. Hope this helps.
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Reply to kuli
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I really don't think congestive heart failure has stages. It is a condition that can be treated and if not well taken care of can get worse. Other medications for other problems can also make the chf worse like some diabetic meds. The dementia on the other hand dose have stages, this also can play on the chf. The best thing you can do is sit down with his doctor or your own and discuss this with them. This way you will get better answers to your question. I hope this helps a little, I know its hard when you care for someone.
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Reply to Debb064
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My father died at 84,just this past March. He had just about every heart problem imagineable. He died of congestive heart failure. He suffered a severe heart attack at 62 and lost the back portion of his heart. At the time, he was put on several heart medications and monitored. As time went on , he had to have a mitral valve replacement.He was sent to Cleveland Clinic, but the doctor tried the new band-aid fix, and in so doing, my dad suffered a stroke. This led to 6 weeks at the Clinic and therapy once he came back home. He was put on Coumadin as well as lasix to his heart regimen. There were a few strokes after this and then a V-fib attack. More pills and more therapies along with an ICD implant. Dementia set in,but he still could feed himself and groom himself,etc with some assistence. He was mobile and my mom made sure he had good quality of life. And then, in Dec. of 2011, my Dad heart beat began racing and he was hospitalized and put on the last best type of medication to control it. The medicine gave him jerky tremors and he lost the ability to walk. He was no longer able to be cared for at home, and went to a nursing home, where he spent the next 21/2 months. He began filling up with fluid so much so that his heart and ICD began to be affected. His lungs filled up with fluid, his breathing became difficult and he literally drowned in a fluid around his heart and lungs. Doctor was wonderful and kept him comfortable and out of pain. I watched my Dad die. If you ask me what was the worst part of this ordeal, I would tell you that the last medication , amioderone, was the end for him. His life from that moment on had no quality. Make sure your doctor is honest with you about what to expect and what he will do for your loved one when the time comes. We learned only from this unbearable experienceIf there is no quality to your life, there is NO LIFE AT ALL!
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Reply to PURPLE
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My 92 yr old mom has congestive heart failure. It's been years... She has such a tremendous attitude. When she was young she was a nurse on the hospital ship HOPE during WWII, then she became a stewardess. She married my dad and became a good mom. So now, I want to be a good daughter to her. I feel like my life is on hold, because although she lives 45 minutes from me, she wants to live independently and she will call typically early in the morning (which is the time when my dad died) and she gets scared. Everything that was described here, pace maker, coumedin, irregular heart beats, difficulty breathing, swollen ankles, etc, she has... She snuck out and got an intelligence test and driving test after her last hospital stay and they passed her! So she still drives within her neighborhood to a "healthy bones" exercise class and to her local hair dresser to get her hair done once a week. When she doesn't feel well I trust her not to drive. Some days are OK, many days are not so good. She doesn't like to eat anymore. I feel like I'm always struggling to find something good for her to eat. She was always a health nut when she was raising us kids. Now I find out she goes to the frozen foods section and grabs lasagna or something else with very high sodium. I keep trying to get her to stay with clean healthy food, but she loves potato chips (which are not the worst). She goes grocery shopping sometimes. She has someone come in every Friday to clean her house and this woman makes her healthy food. Sometimes she likes it, but mostly she just complains. It is so helpful for me to read the stories on this web site. I don't know if she will live for three months or three years. Right now I'm unable to do almost anything with my own life, because she calls me unexpectedly, often enough to send me into a tailspin. I either stay with her for a week, then we head to the hospital where they adjust her diuretic and other meds, then send her home again to recover. Then she gets better and just as I start to consider going back to work, or start consulting, she begins to fail again. She is very frail, but all I want to do is to be sure that her final days/years are somewhat joyful. I read somewhere that we should not ask what they want but we should be thoughtful and do nice things for them. I don't know what to do, because mom needs to eat, but she complains bitterly because she doesn't like anything that we bring, just because she doesn't like to eat anymore. My understanding from my web search is that the next stage is that she will continue to lose weight and then she won't want to drink. It is so hard to watch her being so frail... Any suggestions on how to be helpful to people who are struggling with their final stages of life would be most appreciated. As with everyone on this question... we just don't know if it will be moments or years... It is hard to know what is best to do. Thank you all for being here with me.
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Reply to Sooozi
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there is no cure for CHF, but if managed well patients can live a long time. My father is suffering from CHF and COPD. He has been living with CHF for awhile. The stages do involve progressive weakening of the body, fluid build up, circulatory problems, etc. Oxygen helps. My father gets tired easily and is weak. It is heart breaking because one day I know he may not wake up. From what I understand from my research, it is a peaceful way to go. However, my godmother's mother was gasping for air. I think with proper medication and oversight from your doctor you can live fairly comfortably.
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Reply to arose4yu
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My Mom is 88 with CHF. She was first diagnoised 8 years ago. She had a pace maker installed and lives on a ton of meds that sometimes have to be changed now and then to keep up with the problem. (and she is on coumadin, which I hate because of the constant monitoring) . After the implant of the pace maker, the hospital provided us a book to take home called, "Living with Heart Failure". My moms doctor just recently told me in one of her visits that she is worsening. If she lifts anything strenuous , which is not a lot, it causes bleeding out of the valve of the heart. They don't want to operate on her because of her age. Even though she has been told many times about how the condition, and how it can effect you, she continually will say she doesn't understand and continues to do chores around the house. She loves to do house cleaning and is her only hobby she enjoys doing. All I can say, is that I have read up on it on many websites. Never really found anything on a timeline. Its just that the heart is working hard all the time, and can be managed by different medications. However, no one can live forever, so I guess you can only imagine that the heart will keep beating the best it can, till it can no longer. I just keep up with the Doctor and always tell him what is going on as to how she feels. If you are a caregiver, you have to monitor alot of things to keep things on track to help the person with the bad heart. I feel it is only buying them time. I only know that someday it will give out, but the best advice is to always ask the Doctor. If you don't like the Doctor, keep searching to find one that you feel confident with.
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Reply to cowgirl
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My uncle Ben is 89 and has CHF and renal insufficiency.His refraction rate is only 35%.He is also incontinent,and taking lasix four times a week doesn't help.There are four stages to CHF,and he is in stage 2B,which means he can walk several blocks before he gets out of breath and has to sit down.He went into vfib several years ago and was declared clinically dead.He has a midway aortic aneurysm,and his lad is 90% blocked.He has an implanted ICD which both shocks his heart and also paces.He is now on both Coreg and Amiodorone,but fluid build up is still a problem,because he likes his TV dinners.Last year,he received 19 shocks in a row and we had to rush him to the hospital.He was put on 400mg of amiodorone which lowered his blood pressure to 70/40,and he couldn't function.I fought to have it lowered to 200,and at least he can get out of bed and take walks.
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Reply to franny51
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my dad is being taken care of by my husband and myself and helped tremendously by hospice. He has copd, diabetes, a history of cabg, a quad. by pass, hyperlydemic, hyperthyroid, and severe, severe dementia. When we went to get him in Jan. they didn't think he could even survive the trip to NC, but he not only survived, he actually improved, with reg, medicene, good meals, and most of all love and caring he seemed the best he'd been in 5 yrs. Unfortunately, we are down to the last stages. No food, no fluid, can't swallow and is having a horrible time breathing. I promised him I would not let him die alone in a hospital., and I will keep true to my word. He's had last rights, and I sit and sing with him, I say prayers, and hold his hand. Listening to him breath is agonizing, but I know it is worse for him.His lungs are filling up and there is a foam in his mouth that seems to choke him. We suction this out, and he is burning up with 104 fever. I know that no one can put a time line on a life, I would just like to know how long a person can survive like this, The morphine drops and the atropine drops seem to control the pain, but my heart goes out to him. They say it is only a matter of time, but that can be anything, Please give me some kind of hope that his h*ll will be over soon, My heart is breaking.
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Reply to tiger3fred
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Great question I've been wondering about myself. My dad has CHF, aortic aneurysm, vascular disease. He's been told he is a candidate for a stroke for many years. CHF landed him in the hospital a couple years ago and it didn't look as if he'd make it but that got the fluid out and he did. He takes a ton if medicationbut doesn't want to talk about it. My mom died a few years ago and now he spends his time traveling. He paces himself and he can't walk much without needing to stop then he comes home and spends weeks resting. I figure if he's happy I am. Although I often wonder when the call will come from some official saying my dad has died in some far away hotel. We know he's on borrowed time and he seems to too.
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Reply to ecranos
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