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The caregiving perspective in heart failure: a population based study

Patricia M Davidson15*, Amy P Abernethy2, Phillip J Newton1, Katherine Clark3 and David C Currow4

Author affiliations

1 Centre for Cardiovascular and Chronic Care, Faculty of Health, University of Technology Sydney, PO Box 123, Level 7, Building 10 Jones Street, Broadway, Sydney, NSW 2007, Australia

2 Division of Medicine Oncology, Duke University Medical Center, 3436, Durham, NC 27710, USA

3 Director & Area Director of Palliative Care, Calvary Mater Newcastle, University of Newcastle, Waratah, Newcastle, NSW 2298, Australia

4 Professor, Discipline of Palliative and Supportive Services, Flinders University Flinders Centre for Clinical Change, Bedford Park, 5042, South Australia, Adelaide, Australia

5 School of Nursing, Johns Hopkins University, 525 N. Wolfe Street, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA

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Citation and License

BMC Health Services Research 2013, 13:342  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-13-342

Published: 3 September 2013



Heart failure (HF) is a frequent condition in the elderly and mortality is high. This study sought to describe the profile of those providing care in the community and their needs.


The South Australian Health Omnibus is an annual, random, face-to-face, cross sectional survey conducted within the state. Having standardized data to the whole population, the study describes the subset of the population who identify that they actively cared for someone at the end of life with HF in the five years before survey administration.


Three hundred and seventy three respondents (2.0% of the whole population; 4.9% of caregivers) reported being a caregiver of someone with HF. There were 84 active caregivers (day-to-day or intermittent hands on caregivers) for people with HF. Mean age for caregivers for those with HF was much higher than other caregivers (55.7 vs 49.4; p < 0.001) with care lasting for an average of 48.9 months (SD 66.2). People caring for those with HF were far less likely to access specialist palliative care services (38.1% vs 60.9%; p < 0.0001) despite having much greater levels of unmet needs for physical care 28.3% vs 14.1%; p = 0.008).


Study findings suggest that there is a significant burden placed on caregivers for people with HF over extended periods in the community. There are differences in access to services for these caregivers compared to those dying from other conditions, particularly cancer.

Heart failure; Caregivers; Australia