Abstract 318: Caregiver Experiences with Decision Making in Destination Therapy Left Ventricular Assist Devices: A Qualitative Study
BACKGROUND: Destination therapy left ventricular assist device (DT LVAD) is increasingly offered to patients with end-stage heart failure who are ineligible for heart transplantation. Implanting centers often require the identification of a dedicated caregiver prior to DT LVAD implantation; however, the caregiver experience surrounding this difficult decision is relatively unexplored.
METHODS: Between October 2012 and July 2013, we conducted semi-structured, in-depth interviews of caregivers to understand their experiences with decision making for loved ones considering and living with DT LVADs. Data were analyzed using a mixed inductive and deductive approach.
RESULTS: We interviewed 17 caregivers: 16 caregivers of patients who had received a DT LVAD and 1 caregiver of a patient who had declined a DT LVAD. At the time of the caregiver interview, 10 DT LVAD patients were living and 7 were deceased. The majority were women (n=16) of whom 12 were either spouses or widows of the patients. Median age of caregivers was 65 (range 35-79). Twelve caregivers reported spending more than 8 hours per week caring for their loved one, and 14 attended regular medical appointments. Throughout the interviews, caregivers reported that DT LVAD was a complex decision making process with many inherent tensions. The themes identified are broadly interpreted under three domains: 1) the stark decision context with tension between hopes and realities, “when we first started out¼we had hopes of a transplant¼but once the lung function was done, and the kidneys ¼there was pretty much nothing. There was no hope other than the LVAD”; 2) the challenging decision process and the tension between wanting their loved ones to live, “I said ‘Well, I'll tell you what. I didn't marry you to be a young widow” and wanting to respect their loved ones’ wishes, “My thoughts were this was his life and it was his choice”; and 3) the downstream decision outcome and the tension between gratitude, “I'm just thankful to have my dad here¼” and a feeling of burden, “I've never felt caregiver was my gift¼I tend to feel like I'm being imposed upon at times.”
CONCLUSIONS: Despite the promise of significantly improved survival for some patients, DT LVAD has major implications for caregives as well as patients. Decision making surrounding DT LVAD requires education of both the patient and caregiver of potential stresses. Additionally, decision-making surrounding DT LVAD should seek to incorporate decision support for patients and caregivers. This should include a focus on caregiver burden and the tensions that caregivers may experience.
Author Disclosures: C.K. McIlvennan: None. J. Jones: None. L.A. Allen: None. J. Lindenfeld: None. C. Nowels: None. K.M. Swetz: None. D.D. Matlock: None.
- © 2014 by American Heart Association, Inc.