Background Breathlessness is one of the most prevalent symptoms of heart failure in hospital and community-dwelling cohorts. Since breathlessness affects their daily life experiences, individuals try to manage their own breathlessness first rather than seek help sooner. Management varies regarding individual assessment, but there is no data on the breathlessness experiences and support needs of individuals in Turkish culture.
Aim To explore (1) individuals’ self-reported symptoms associated with heart failure: (2) their breathlessness descriptions related to affected factors and impacts on their life: (3) their breathlessness management strategies: and (4) their needs for a comprehensive breathlessness management strategy based on their previous breathlessness relief motivations.
Methods A descriptive qualitative study. Twenty individuals with heart failure in Turkey were recruited for one-to-one interviews. Everyone took part in a semi-structured (face-to-face/telephone/email) interview exploring their breathlessness experiences/perceptions. This research was guided by Critical Realism philosophical approach, which helps to understand the causal mechanism of breathlessness in relation to complexity and stratified realities in study sample. Braun and Clarke’s reflective thematic analysis was used to frame study data.
Results Mean age was 56 (18–83). The sample consisted of 8(40%) men and 12(60%) women. Participants experienced daily breathlessness with exercise/basic activities. Fatigues, sleep problems, and stress/anxiety were other commonly reported symptoms associated with heart failure. Interconnected three themes were identified: Breathlessness evaluation (interconnected sub-themes: factor-related breathlessness, description, and impact of breathlessness), Breathlessness management (breathing exercise/resting, coping with emotional distress (to reduce stress), and retrospective/prospective life changes) and Needs for improving breathlessness management (psychological/emotional and family support).
Conclusion Breathlessness evaluation and management of participants vary by factor and its effects. Psychological support is the area where the participants in Turkey most need support.
Implications for practice/research Individual breathlessness (symptom) assessment is key to heart failure management to increase motivation for self-care continuity and reduce adverse outcomes.
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