Background: Self-care is difficult for patients with heart failure (HF) because early symptoms are subtle and the treatment regimen is complex. The primary purpose of this study was to describe HF self-care abilities and the difficulties that patients have in achieving success in self-care. A secondary purpose was to compare self-care abilities in patients experienced with HF with those patients who are newly diagnosed.
Methods: Descriptive, cross-sectional, comparative surveys were conducted to assess demographic and clinical factors that may interfere with self-care and lifestyle changes made to accommodate the diagnosis of HF. Symptoms the patients had and self-care responses to those symptoms were assessed by using the Self-Management of Heart Failure questionnaire.
Results: The 139 patients were primarily elderly, male, retired, unmarried, and earning less than $20,000 annually. Hearing and eyesight were impaired and most patients were functionally compromised. Most of the group had multiple HF symptoms during the past year, yet their knowledge of the importance of signs and symptoms was poor and many misperceptions were evident. Recognition of changes in signs and symptoms was difficult for most patients, but easier for those more experienced with HF. Experienced patients were more likely to use appropriate self-care remedies than newly diagnosed patients. Few patients were comfortable evaluating the effectiveness of their self-care actions and most had low self-confidence in their ability to perform self-care.
Conclusions: With the low level of self-care ability and the number of difficulties these patients face, it is not surprising that rehospitalization rates remain high. Specific recommendations for the teaching and delivery of care are provided.