Each year, more than 600,000 people receive a pacemaker to help them safely regulate their heart rhythm. Of these, more than half of them are over the age of 75. If one of your parents may receive a pacemaker soon, or if a pacemaker has already become a part of their daily life, understanding this device and its purpose is essential so you can modify your senior care and ensure your loved one continues to live a healthy, active life after the implantation.
Pacemakers are extremely small, only about the size of a matchbook, and are battery-operated. When a senior copes with erratic heart rate, the pacemaker works to regulate it so that the patient can fulfill his daily needs and participate in his favorite activities without dealing with the unpleasant effects of heart rate disruptions, dramatically improving his quality of life.
Some of the symptoms elderly adults with erratic heart rates experience include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Frequent fainting or episodes of near-fainting
- Tachycardia (a very fast heartbeat)
- Bradycardia (a very slow heartbeat)
If the doctor does determine that a pacemaker could help your aging parent overcome the effects of an erratic heartbeat and experience a healthier, more active quality of life, he will implant the device through a small incision in your parent's chest. A lead attaches the pacemaker to the heart, which is how the device regulates the heart rate on a daily basis. After implantation, the device uses factors such as your parent's breathing rate, pulse rate, and blood temperature to keep the heart at a proper rate, while adjusting to changing needs such as when your parent is exercising.
As with any procedure, it is important to monitor your parents and implement specific care guidelines for your parent after implantation. If your parent does not already have one, consider hiring a senior health care services provider who can help your parent through recovery and as he adjusts to life with a pacemaker.
Use some of these tips to help your parent recover from his surgery and adjust to his new lifestyle:
- Protect the incision site by encouraging your elderly parent to keep the arm closest to the pacemaker as still as possible and below shoulder level for the first couple of weeks.
- Keep the incision from getting wet for several days after implantation.
- Monitor your elderly parent's health and behavior, as well as the incision site itself, for signs of infection such as redness, heat, drainage, headache, chills, or fatigue.
- Visit the doctor for a follow-up check of the incision after one week, and make sure to mention any concerns you or your aging parent has, such as the heart rate settings being too high.
- Plan for another follow-up visit no more than three months after implantation, and then at regular intervals for the rest of the senior's life.
Get in touch with the elder care agency in your area to discuss hiring a senior health care services provider who has experience providing care and assistance for elderly adults with pacemakers so she can help your parent get used to the device and regain his activity and independence.