Responding to a Heart Attack

Heart

A heart attack, also known as a cardiac arrest, is a serious medical condition that occurs when blood supply is cut off to the heart. Smooth muscle cells in the heart do not get enough oxygen, and start to die, causing the heart as a whole to seize. Each year over 700,000 people in the United States suffer from a heart attack, with about 15% of these people dying from the attack. A heart attack can be sudden, taking a victim by surprise. In addition to the actual heart attack, many heart attack sufferers become injured during the attack. They may accidentally fall, accidentally strike their head or break a bone.

High Risk for Heart Attack

There are three main risk factors associated with the chances of suffering from a heart attack: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking. Nearly half of all Americans have at least one of these three risk factors. Other risk factors include obesity, poor diet, diabetes, excessive use of alcohol, and a high rate of physical inactivity. With nearly half of all sudden heart attacks occurring outside of hospitals, there is a fairly significant chance that a heart attack will happen to a resident living in a nursing home. Nursing home staff should be aware of which residents show risk factors that make the resident more likely to have a heart attack.

Warning Signs of a Heart Attack

There are several early indicators that a heart attack is about to happen, and if these indicators are identified before the attack, steps can be taken to reduce the risk of harm:

  • The individual expresses he or she is experiencing chest pain, discomfort, or tightness;
  • The individual has discomfort in the upper body, including the back, arms, neck lower face, and upper stomach areas that comes and goes.
  • The individual has shortness of breath.
  • The individual experiences a sense of nausea (mostly exhibited by women having heart attacks), cold sweats, numbness, aching, or lightheadedness.
  • Women, the very elderly and those with diabetes often exhibit milder forms of many of these symptoms.

What Should Nursing Staff Do if the Signs of a Heart Attack Are Identified in a Resident

To avoid unnecessary injury to the resident, such as an accidental fall, nursing staff should immediately seat the resident and call 911. An individual’s chances of surviving a heart attack increase substantially with the immediacy with which he or she receives emergency treatment and medical attention. It is important to keep calm during a heart attack, so nursing staff should encourage the victim to be calm and relax and confirm and reaffirm that emergency services are on the way to help. If the resident is on prescription medication for a known heart condition, it may be prudent to have the resident take his or her medication while waiting for EMS to arrive. Nitroglycerin can be very helpful if administered during a heart attack. Lastly, if the victim becomes unconscious, nursing staff should administer CPR until emergency medical services arrive.

Contact an Illinois Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer

If you happen to witness a heart attack while visiting loved ones at an Illinois nursing home, and you are concerned that the nursing staff did not respond appropriately to the heart attack, an inadvertent fall, or a resultant potential head injury, please contact the experienced nursing home abuse attorneys at Rooth Law Firm today either online or by phone at (800) 598-4348.

Photo Credit: ‘Ajnagraphy’ via Compfight cc

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