Caught between competing emotions and tensions while adjusting to a new everyday life: a focus group study with family caregivers of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest survivors

Eur J Cardiovasc Nurs. 2023 Apr 12;22(3):320-327. doi: 10.1093/eurjcn/zvac056.


Aims: Caring for an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA) survivor may impact family caregivers' lives due to the sudden onset of the illness and possible secondary cognitive, emotional, and physical challenges. However, experiences of caring for an OHCA survivor are sparsely described. Thus, this study aimed to explore how family caregivers of OHCA survivors experience the potential burden.

Methods and results: Using an explorative qualitative approach, six focus group interviews were conducted with a sample of 25 family caregivers of OHCA survivors and analysed using a phenomenological hermeneutic approach inspired by the philosophy of Ricoeur. The OHCA survivors attended a rehabilitation course, and the family caregivers were interviewed as part of the course.Based on the analysis, three themes emerged: (i) feeling unexpectedly alone and invisible; the family caregivers experienced an emotional burden that could not be shared-leading to caregiving being a lonely experience, (ii) fear of loss; the fear of losing a loved one was a constant companion contributing to the burden, and (iii) adjusting to a new everyday life; the family caregivers had difficulties adjusting to living their lives on the premise of the survivors' needs.

Conclusion: The findings of this study emphasize the burden experienced by family caregivers and how they can be trapped in competing emotions and tensions. The possible caregiver burden following OHCA should be acknowledged. Interventions to reduce the burden should be tested and implemented as part of the clinical care of OHCA survivors and their families.

Keywords: Cardiac arrest; Caregiver; Family; Out of hospital; Qualitative research.

MeSH terms

  • Caregivers* / psychology
  • Emotions
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrest*
  • Survivors / psychology