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Heart failure: support at the end of life

23 May 2019
Volume 28 · Issue 10


Aysha Mendes, Editor, British Journal of Cardiac Nursing, begins a series on cardiology with a look at attitudes to and guidelines on providing end-of-life care for people with heart failure

End-of-life care has been historically associated with cancer. However, there are many chronic conditions that require the appropriate provision of supportive and palliative care, and the specialised training, multidisciplinary collaboration and sensitive communication skills that come with this.

Heart failure occurs when the heart cannot maintain sufficient cardiac output to meet the body's demands for blood supply, both during activity and at rest (Murtagh et al, 2019) and should be at the forefront of end-of-life care services' radar. More than 30% of people die within 1 year of their diagnosis (Nazarko, 2008), yet only a small number of these patients receive supportive and palliative care (Chester, 2010). Patients and families have even reported being denied access (Pooler et al, 2007).

The value of this care cannot be underestimated as not only will it improve the death experience of the person at the end of their life, but also the bereavement experience of their families. In fact, where such care is implemented for people with heart failure, it has actually been shown to improve survival (Connor et al, 2007) and quality of life (World Health Organization, 2018).

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