Two faces of the same coin: A qualitative study of patients' and carers' coexistence with chronic breathlessness associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

Diana H. Ferreira, Slavica Kochovska, Aaron Honson, Jane L. Phillips, David C. Currow

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    1 Citation (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Background: Chronic breathlessness is a recognized clinical syndrome that severely impacts patients and carers, who become increasingly restricted in their daily activities. Often, patients become reliant on their carers, who are required to provide constant support. Although individual experiences of breathlessness have been previously investigated, there are few studies exploring contemporaneous experiences of breathlessness of the patient and their carer. This study aimed to understand the experience of severe chronic breathlessness in people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) from the perspective of the patient and carer unit. Methods: A qualitative study embedded in a randomised, placebo-controlled effectiveness study (RCT) of regular, low-dose (≤32 mg/day), sustained-release morphine for chronic breathlessness associated with COPD. Recruitment occurred between July 2017 and November 2018 in one respiratory and palliative care services, in South Australia. Participants were community-dwelling patients with COPD and severe breathlessness (modified Medical Research Council scale 3 or 4) and their carers. Separate semi-structured interviews were conducted with patients and carers, recorded and transcribed verbatim. Analysis was informed by grounded theory using a constant comparative approach. Results: From the 26 patients with a carer recruited for the RCT in South Australia, nine were interviewed in their homes. Six patients were men, median age 77 years. Carers were mostly women, who were their wives (n = 6), median age 70. Five themes emerged from the data: (1) shrinking world; (2) mutual adaptation; (3) co-management; (4) emotional coping; and (5) meaning in the face of death. Conclusion: Chronic breathlessness is a systemic condition that permeates all aspects of the patient's and carer's lives. Working as a team, patients and carers manage chronic breathlessness to achieve maximal function and well-being. Patients and carers share many aspects of the experience of breathlessness, but the carer seems particularly susceptible to emotional distress. Future chronic breathlessness interventions should target the patient and the carer, both together and separately to address their common and individual needs. Trial registration: The main trial is registered (registration no. NCT02720822; posted March 28, 2016).

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number64
    Number of pages12
    JournalBMC Palliative Care
    Volume19
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 6 May 2020

    Bibliographical note

    Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.

    Keywords

    • Carers
    • Chronic breathlessness
    • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
    • Patients
    • Qualitative research

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