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End Stages of Heart Failure

 What to Expect

end stage heart failure

Congestive heart failure is one of the most common reasons for hospital admissions for senior citizens.

In fact, over 5 million adults in the United States experience heart failure.

Heart failure occurs when the heart muscle becomes damaged and can no longer pump blood effectively.

Although symptoms can be managed, this is a chronic condition with no cure.

In time, patients will reach the final stages of congestive heart failure.

Patients in the end stages of heart failure want to know what to expect.

The symptoms of end-stage congestive heart failure include dyspnea, chronic cough or wheezing, edema, nausea or lack of appetite, a high heart rate, and confusion or impaired thinking.

Learn about the hospice eligibility requirements for end-stage heart failure.

What Do Symptoms of End Stage Congestive Heart Failure Look Like? 


Dyspnea – or shortness of breath – can occur both during activity and rest.

This is the symptom that often sends patients racing to the hospital late at night.

Work with your hospice or palliative care team to manage symptoms at home and avoid these stressful hospital trips.

Chronic Cough

When the heart cannot keep up with the supply of blood moving between it and the lungs, fluid can build up in the lungs.

This results in a chronic cough or wheezing that can produce white or pink mucus.


As the heart’s ability to pump slows down, fluid can build up in the body.

This creates swelling in the extremities – particularly the feet, ankles, legs, or abdomen.

Lack of Appetite

As the digestive system receives less blood, patients may feel full or nauseous.

Not wanting to eat is a natural part of the body shutting down, but families often find this distressing.

Learn more about why it is okay for your loved one to stop eating and drinking at end of life.

High Heart Rate

In response to a loss in pumping capacity, the heart begins to beat faster.

The patient experiences this as a racing or throbbing heartbeat.


When the heart stops working effectively, it can change sodium levels in the blood.

This leads to memory loss, confusion, and a general feeling of disorientation.

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