To preserve the supportive capabilities of partners of heart failure (HF) patients, it is necessary to gain insight in the experiences and potential needs of these partners. Thirteen partners of HF patients participated in semistructured interviews specifically focused on their experiences as a partner. Patients had had HF for at least 18 months, and their partners were interviewed at home without the patient being present. Content analysis was used to organize the data and to identify categories and themes. Partners of HF patients experience several changes in life as reflected in the main themes: changes in life, changes in relationship, coping, and support. Partners support patients in their daily activities; they often change their own daily schedule and have to adjust joint activities. Regaining a new balance together is one of the challenges that couples face when confronted with HF. Anxiety is an important theme especially in the acute phase that can interfere with adequate coping strategies. Changes in relationship are related to difficulties in communication and sexuality. Although most partners seem to cope relatively well, the impact of HF on their lives is profound. Partners are vulnerable especially at the onset of the illness, and therefore, it is important to involve partners actively in the early process of rehabilitation and recognize their importance to the patient and their potential problems.
- heart failure
- social support