Giving voice to patients' and family caregivers' needs in chronic heart failure: implications for palliative care programs

J Palliat Med. 2011 Dec;14(12):1317-24. doi: 10.1089/jpm.2011.0179. Epub 2011 Nov 22.


Background: The American College of Cardiology Foundation/American Heart Association (ACC/AHA) Guidelines for the Management of Heart Failure recommend palliative care in the context of Stage D HF or at the end of life. Previous studies related to heart failure (HF) palliative care provide useful information about patients' experiences, but they do not provide concrete guidance for what palliative care needs are most important and how a palliative care program should be structured.

Objectives: Describe HF patients' and their family caregivers' major concerns and needs. Explore whether, how, and when palliative care would be useful to them.

Design and participants: Qualitative study using in-depth interviews of 33 adult outpatients with symptomatic HF identified using purposive sampling and 20 of their family caregivers.

Approach: Interviews were transcribed verbatim and analyzed using the constant comparative method.

Key results: Overall, patients and caregivers desired early support adjusting to the limitations and future course of illness, relief of a number of diverse symptoms, and the involvement of family caregivers using a team approach. A diverse group of participants desired these elements of palliative care early in illness, concurrent with their disease-specific care, coordinated by a provider who understood their heart condition and knew them well. Some diverging needs and preferences were found based on health status and age.

Conclusions: HF patients and their family caregivers supported early integration of palliative care services, particularly psychosocial support and symptom control, using a collaborative team approach. Future research should test the feasibility and effectiveness of integrating such a program into routine HF care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Aged
  • Caregivers / psychology*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Colorado
  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • Heart Failure / physiopathology
  • Heart Failure / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Needs Assessment
  • Palliative Care / methods*
  • Palliative Care / standards
  • Qualitative Research
  • Sickness Impact Profile*
  • Social Support