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Patient Educ Couns. 2002 Apr;46(4):287-95.

Facilitators and barriers to heart failure self-care.

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Sharp HealthCare and School of Nursing, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA 92182-4158, USA.


Self-care of heart failure (HF) is difficult to master, but the reasons why remain unclear. The purpose of this study was to explore how HF influences patients' lives, assess how they perform self-care, and determine how their life situation facilitates or impedes HF self-care. Qualitative data were obtained from 26 individuals with chronic HF. Data were gathered using structured interviews and analyzed using content analysis. Physical limitations, debilitating symptoms, difficulties coping with treatment, lack of knowledge, distressed emotions, multiple comorbidities, and personal struggles were common. Self-care involved the recognition of symptoms, but atypical symptoms such as faintness were rarely attributed to HF. Patients discussed their successes and failures in following dietary, exercise, and medication recommendations. Some adaptation strategies were practical and some involved internal resources. Many patients accepted support from others, but some withdrew. With the number of barriers these patients face, it is not surprising that self-care of HF is typically poor and that readmission rates continue to be high. Recommendations are provided for a stepped approach to patient education and counseling that uses these findings in practice.

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