Aim: To explore thoughts about death and perceived health status in elderly patients with heart failure during a 6 month period after a deterioration needing hospitalisation.
Methods: A descriptive, mixed methods design was used. Health was measured with EuroQol-5D, thoughts about death with multiple choice and open questions. A total of 145 patients with New York Heart Association class II-IV heart failure, mean age 70 years, 70% males, were included.
Results: During deterioration, 16% of the patients were afraid of dying and 4% had this fear very often. Fear of death did not change significantly during the 6 months after deterioration. Both during deterioration (r=0.26, P <0.01) and 6 months later (r=0.40, P <0.001), fear of death and anxiety/depression were correlated. Content analysis of the open question produced 5 categories: (1) Death as a natural part of life; (2) Death as a relief from symptoms and disability (3) Death as fearful (4) Arrangements for time after death (5) A wish for an extended life.
Conclusion: Elderly patients with heart failure had a lot of thoughts about death. Higher levels of anxiety/depression were correlated to fear of death. Many expressed death as a natural relief from suffering, others were afraid of pain, loss of independence and dignity. (c) 2008 Published by Elsevier B.V. on behalf of European Society of Cardiology.
- heart failure
- mixed method
- quality of life
- palliative care