Challenges, Needs, and Experiences of Recently Hospitalized Cardiac Patients and Their Informal Caregivers

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Background:Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in the United States. Unpaid family caregivers of patients who experienced a cardiac event may occupy a key position in disseminating continuous health messages to these patients, yet more information is needed to guide the development of educational and behavioral interventions targeting caregivers.Objective:The purpose of this qualitative study was to assess the challenges, needs, and personal experiences of cardiac patients and their informal caregivers to explore the types of programs and services that would be most beneficial in promoting adherence to national CVD guidelines among cardiac patients and their caregivers.Methods:Patients who had been admitted to the cardiovascular service line of a large urban academic medical center and their informal caregivers (N = 38, 63% women, 74% white) participated in semistructured interviews and focus groups. Participants were asked to speak about 4 major categories of their personal experiences: support, challenges, coping, and program delivery, to determine their needs, the kind of educational interventions that would be most helpful to them, and how they would prefer this information/education to be delivered.Results:Both patients and caregivers ranked diet as the most pressing challenge (91% and 78%, respectively). The Internet, television, and social media were the preferred methods of delivery of such programs. Challenges most commonly cited by caregivers and patients included issues related to taking/administering prescribed medications and medication side effects, and mental stress. Caregivers expressed that not knowing what to expect after the patient’s discharge from the hospital was a major stressor.Conclusion:These findings may inform the development of educational interventions targeted to cardiac caregivers so that they may be more effective in assisting the patients in their care to adhere to national CVD prevention guidelines.

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