Qualitative analysis of living with heart failure

Heart Lung. Jan-Feb 2003;32(1):32-40. doi: 10.1067/mhl.2003.10.


Background: The incidence of heart failure has been described as epidemic in proportion. Although literature abounds surrounding issues of epidemiology, pathophysiology, and treatment issues for those with heart failure, little is known about the day-to-day experiences of adults living with this chronic illness.

Objectives: The purpose of this study was to describe and analyze the experience of adults who are living with heart failure. The specific aims were to describe the problems, challenges, and processes of living with heart failure, to identify strategies and tactics adults use to live with heart failure, and to provide a model that articulates what the participants described.

Methods: Principles of naturalistic inquiry were used to describe problems, challenges, and processes of living with heart failure. Six women and 5 men participated in in-depth interviews that lasted from 40 minutes to 100 minutes. Data were collected and analyzed with the constant, comparative method.

Results: Participants' use of language referring to wind and water in describing their heart failure symptoms led to discovery of navigating and aspects of navigational science as metaphors for living with heart failure. The 3 main categories of the resulting model were called experiencing turbulence, navigating, and finding safe harbor.

Conclusions: Use of the model for living with heart failure may provide for creation of interventions for adults to improve their ability to manage their own care in the face of this potentially devastating illness.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Chronic Disease
  • Female
  • Heart Failure / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Quality of Life*