Supportive care for patients with heart failure and their partners : A descriptive and interventional study

Abstract: Background: Having the support of a partner is essential for both health related quality of life and survival in heart failure patients. However, caring for a patient with heart failure may affect the health related quality of life, well‐being and cause a burden for the partner. The partner is expected to be responsible for the care, which may have consequences for the heart failure patient’s long‐term health and well‐being. Further research to determine health related quality of life, well‐being, caregiver burden and needs of partners is warranted as well as studies evaluating interventions targeting patient‐partner dyads.Aim: The overall aim was to describe how the life situation of patient‐partner dyads was influenced by heart failure and to determine the effects of an intervention of follow‐up with education and psychosocial support for patient‐partner dyads.Design and methods: The thesis is based on three quantitative studies and one qualitative study. The first two studies were descriptive and included 135 dyads (patient‐partner) (I, II) and the randomised intervention study included a total of 155 dyads (IV). The qualitative study had a grounded theory approach. Thirteen partners were interviewed and data analysed using constant comparative method (III).Results: Caregiver burden was perceived as moderate in 30% of the partners and the rest experienced a low caregiver burden. The patients’ physical component score of SF‐36, partners’ mental component score of SF‐36 and perceived control explained 39% of the caregiver burden (I). Patients had lower health related quality of life compared to their partners in all dimensions except in the mental health domain of SF‐36 and lower qualityadjusted life year weights compared to their partners. Mental health scores were lower in partners compared to age and gender‐matched references. All other health related quality of life scores and the quality‐adjusted life year weights were comparable between the partners and the reference group. Patients had more depressive symptoms than their partners. There was no difference in the level of perceived control or knowledge about chronic heart failure between patients and partners (II). During grounded theory analysis confirmation was identified as describing the core category of the partners’ individual needs. The core category theoretically binds together three underlying subcategories: security, rest for mind and body, and inner strength. Confirmation facilitated acceptance and improvement of mental and physical health among partners (III). At the three month follow‐up the dyad‐intervention had improved perceived control in patients, but not in the partners. There were no other significant differences in the control and intervention group with regard to the dyads’ health related quality of life and symptoms of depression. There were also no differences in the patients’ self‐care behaviour and partners’ experiences of caregiver burden (IV).Conclusions and implications: Partners to patients with chronic heart failure are at risk of decreased mental well‐being. One third of the partners experienced a moderate caregiver burden and was therefore at a higher risk of poor mental health and decreased perceived control. During short‐term follow‐up the intervention with education and psychosocial support to dyads (patient‐partner) improved the level of perceived control in the chronic heart failure patient group. By identifying partnersʹ needs for security, rest for mind and body, and inner strength, healthcare professionals can confirm these needs throughout the caring process, from the critical care period and throughout rehabilitation at home. Interventions targeting dyads have been limited in previous research. Partners need to be prepared regarding the disease process, the daily regimen, hopes for the future and responsible care providers. They also need to be confirmed because they are vital to the patients’ recovery. Further, the effects of the intervention study should also include a long‐term follow‐up as well as an evaluation of the health‐economic perspective including direct and indirect costs of care.