Owners' Blog

What Does It Mean to Have Heart Failure?

By Hilary and Greg Eldridge

When people hear the words “heart failure” they often assume that it means the heart has completely stopped working. This idea can make people with heart failure believe that there’s nothing they can do to improve their condition. However, that’s simply not the case. Knowing more about heart failure can help older adults and their caregivers to get the right care.

What is Heart Failure?

When a person has heart failure, their heart muscle doesn’t work as well as it should, so it can’t pump blood efficiently. Some people with heart failure have hearts that aren’t able to pump blood through the body with enough force. Other people have a form of heart failure in which the heart doesn’t fill with enough blood. In some cases, both problems exist at the same time.

There is also a difference between having failure of the right side or the left side of the heart. When a person has right side heart failure, the heart doesn’t pump enough blood into the lungs to gather oxygen. With left side heart failure, the heart isn’t able to move enough oxygen-rich blood to the body.

Heart failure develops over time. It is usually caused by other conditions that weaken or damage the heart. It can also occur when the heart muscle becomes too stiff.

What Happens When a Person Has Heart Failure?

Heart failure makes it hard for the heart to do its job well. To make up for that, the heart and body both try to compensate. The heart changes to make up for heart failure by:

  • Becoming More Muscular: By developing extra muscle mass, the heart tries to pump harder, but the effect is only temporary.
  • Getting Bigger: In an attempt to pump more strongly, the heart muscle stretches, which eventually makes the heart enlarge.
  • Increased Heart Rate: Pumping faster helps the heart to pump more blood.

The rest of the body compensates for heart failure by:

  • Narrowing Blood Vessels: Narrow blood vessels cause blood pressure to rise, which makes up for the heart being weak.
  • Diverting Blood: Blood flow to less important organs and tissues decreases so that it can be sent to more essential organs.

Can a Senior Care Provider Help with Heart Failure?

If your older adult family member is suffering from heart failure, hiring a senior care provider can help. Senior care providers can help with many things that may be too difficult due to the fatigue that comes with heart failure. They can help with household tasks and cooking. Senior care providers can also drive older adults to medical appointments and remind them to take medications prescribed by their doctors.


If you or an aging loved one are considering hiring senior care in Stone Mountain, GA, please contact the caring staff at Home Helpers, call (678) 430-8511.