Aims: to explore the characteristics and views of the family carers of older people with heart failure.
Method: 213 family carers of heart failure patients >60 years were recruited from UK general practitioner (GP) practices. Carer strain, quality of life (QOL) and service satisfaction questionnaires were completed every 3 months for 2 years, as well as 16 interviews with patients and carers, and 9 focus groups with health care professionals.
Results: 76% of carers were female, 70% were >60 years and 73% were spousal carers. Predictors of carer strain were symptoms of depression, age and patient NYHA. Predictors of lower QOL were: spousal carer; 2+ health conditions and symptoms of depression. Qualitative findings related to the change in circumstances, impact of responsibilities and health conditions of the family carers.
Conclusion: carers were mainly older women, often experiencing multiple health conditions. Addressing the practical and emotional support required presents a challenge for specialist palliative care in responding to calls for increased involvement in heart failure. A shared care model with liaison between specialist heart failure nurses, cardiologists, primary care teams and hospice services is advocated.