Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Care Partner Wednesday--If My Heart Stops Beating


"If your heart were to stop beating as a result of heart attack, stroke, accident etc., would you like it restarted by the use of cardiopulmonary resuscitation?"

It seems like a no-brainer. Duh--yes. Obviously, I need my heart to be beating to live. So, yes.

It's not that simple. There are facts about CPR you may not know and implications you may not have considered.

"CPR stands for cardiopulmonary resuscitation, It's a life saving medical procedure which is given to someone who is in cardiac arrest. It helps to pump blood around a person's body when their heart can't. To carry out CPR, a person presses up and down on the casualty's chest (chest compressions) and gives them a series of rescue breaths to help save their life when they are in cardiac arrest. A cardiac arrest is caused by an electrical problem in the heart. The electrical problem causes the heart to stop pumping blood around the person's body and to the brain." 1

Should you have CPR? The answer to the question is, it depends.

Side effects of CPR are many. It's not like medical television shows, where the person wakes and begins to talk. Minor side effects are bruising and broken ribs. These are painful and uncomfortable, but not life altering in the long run. Far more serious is possible brain damage or stroke. These can leave the person in a worse state.

CPR is most effective when the person it's given to is generally fit, has had no previous cardiac issues, is not elderly and doesn't have other serious medical issues. Emergency services must be called immediately, the procedure must be done correctly and emergency response must be quick. Even with all these factors in place, there is a significant number of times where death or severe impairment occurs within a few weeks of the event.

What does this mean for care partners?

It's a sobering responsibility, but a DNR or "do not resuscitate" form must be considered. In Ontario, this is a government form that is numbered and must be signed by a doctor or other medical authority who has had a discussion about it with either the patient or the power of attorney. As a care partner, you need to understand the implications of resuscitation, and what it could mean for your elder. If they are able to understand, you need to discuss it with them. If not, you need to make the best decision you can, based on what you know.

I used to think a DNR was at worst, a form of suicide, and at best, a giving up. I understand better now. The reality of modern medicine is that we are forced to make decisions that weren't an issue 50 years ago. If you are sent to a hospital, they are mandated to save your life, unless you have paperwork that states otherwise.

What do you think?

1. https://www.bhf.org.uk/heart-health/how-to-save-a-life/what-is-cpr

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Care Partner Wednesday--If My Heart Stops Beating

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