The American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation (AACVPR) is working to draw attention to the impact of cardiac rehabilitation in reducing the potentially devastating effects of heart disease through Cardiac Rehabilitation Week. (AACVPR) The staff at the Mayo Clinic explains, “Cardiac rehabilitation often involves exercise training, emotional support, and education about lifestyle changes to reduce heart disease risk, such as eating a heart-healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight and quitting smoking.”

The Impact of Cardiovascular Disease on the Elderly

Cardiovascular disease, also known as CVD, is endemic in our growing population of older adults. In fact, CVD in older adults is usually further complicated by other age-related physical limitations including multimorbidity (having multiple health risks at once like diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.), frailty, and taking varying medications with interacting side effects. (CCS, Cardiac Rehabilitation in Older Adults)

According to the American Heart Association, there are an estimated 85.6 million American adults that have one or more types of CVD, of which, 43.7 million are estimated to be over the age of 60.
(American Heart Association)

How Cardiac Rehabilitation Can Help

The American College of Cardiology (ACC) explains that cardiac rehabilitation (CR) originated as an exercise program for middle-aged male patients with coronary heart disease, but has since evolved to a multidimensional treatment designed to promote and facilitate physical activity and healthful lifestyles for those with CVD. According to the Mayo Clinic “The goals of cardiac rehabilitation include establishing a plan to help you regain strength, prevent your condition from worsening, reduce your risk of future heart problems, and improve your health and quality of life.”

The ACC goes on to note that CR has tremendous relevance for older populations, but seniors tend to be under-enrolled in CR programs. (American College of Cardiology) The ACC explains that many of the effects of aging biology and associated disease are conducive to sedentary behaviors that actually escalate the progression of their vulnerability to CVD. Seniors are at greater risk of cardiovascular disease and enrolling in a cardiac rehabilitation program can help create healthy changes to limit the effects of the disease.

About Cardiac Rehabilitation

Cardiac rehabilitation, also known as cardiac rehab (CR), can be different for everyone based on the severity of his or her CVD or cardiac episode, but generally focuses on exercise and education to strengthen the cardiovascular system. Cardiac rehab can range from intensive, full-day programs spanning a few weeks, to less intense programs lasting several months. Seniors recovering from a heart attack or other forms of heart disease, or that have undergone surgery to treat heart disease should work with their care team on a cardiac rehab plan to help improve their health and enhance their recovery. (Mayo Clinic)

How In-Home Care Can Improve the Cardiac Rehab Process

During a cardiac rehab program, seniors work with a team of healthcare professionals like cardiologists, nurse educators, nutrition specialists, exercise specialists, mental health specialists, and physical and occupational therapists. (Mayo Clinic) Most programs have medical evaluations throughout the process to verify progress along with office visits to create a plan for physical activity, lifestyle education, and support. A trained in-home care professional can help seniors with their rehab plan, attending medical visits, assisting with low-impact cardio activities, helping grocery shop and prepare healthful meals, and provide overall support to maintain these new lifestyle habits. Cardiac rehab requires dedication and diligence and having an in-home caregiver can provide the much-needed support to keep up with all the new changes.

Seniors recovering from a cardiac event are especially vulnerable and need real help to maintain their independence. In-home caregivers provide crucial support for daily activities like hygiene, chores, physical therapy, and medication schedules, and can be invaluable in the cardiac rehabilitation process to ensure seniors stay on track, make every appointment, and follow their care plans effectively. If you or a loved one needs assistance during their cardiac recovery, reach out to ameriCARE to match with the right caregiver for your needs.