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J Adv Nurs. 2008 Mar;61(5):474-83. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2648.2007.04553.x.

Living with chronic heart failure: a review of qualitative studies of older people.

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Nethersole School of Nursing, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, Hong Kong, China.



This paper is a report of a systematic review of qualitative studies of how older people live with chronic heart failure.


Chronic heart failure is a global epidemic mainly affecting an ageing population. Understanding how older people live with this disease is important to help promote their adjustment to the distressing illness experience.


Eligible studies published in 1997-2007 were identified from several databases (Medline, CINAHL, PsycINFO and Sociological Abstracts). A manual search was conducted of bibliographies of the identified studies and relevant journals.


Two researchers independently reviewed the studies and extracted the data. Key concepts from the papers were compared for similarities and differences. The transactional model of stress was used to guide data synthesis.


Fourteen qualitative studies were identified. Most described the illness experiences of older people with chronic heart failure and associated coping strategies. There was some emerging work exploring the adjustment process. The findings indicated that living with chronic heart failure was characterized by distressing symptoms, compromised physical functioning, feelings of powerlessness and hopelessness, and social and role dysfunction. There were gender differences in the way the disease was conceived. Adjustment required patients to make sense of the illness experience, accept the prognosis, and get on with living with the condition.


Empowering older people to manage chronic heart failure, instilling hope and bolstering support system are means of promoting successful adjustment to the disease. Further research needs to explore the cultural differences in the adjustment process.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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