"Talking Around It": A Qualitative Study Exploring Dyadic Congruence in Managing the Uncertainty of Living With a Ventricular Assist Device

Lyndsay G. Degroot, Julie T. Bidwell, Anna C. Peeler, Luke T. Larsen, Patricia M. Davidson, Martha A. Abshire

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background Vital components of communicating goals of care and preferences include eliciting the patient and caregiver's definition of quality of life, understanding meaningful activities and relationships, and exploring wishes for care at the end of life. Although current literature suggests framing conversations regarding end of life through the lens of meaning and quality of life, there is limited literature exploring dyadic congruence surrounding these important constructs among patients with ventricular assist devices (VADs) and their caregivers. Objectives The purpose of this study was to explore congruence of VAD patient and caregiver perspectives regarding end of life, definitions of quality of life, and meaning in life while managing the uncertainty of living with a VAD. Methods We used thematic analysis to analyze semistructured qualitative interviews of 10 patient-caregiver dyads 3 to 12 months after VAD implantation. Results Three major themes were identified: (1) differing trajectories of uncertainty and worry, (2) a spectrum of end-of-life perspectives, and (3) enjoying everyday moments and independence. Overall, patients and caregivers had differing perspectives regarding uncertainty and end of life. Within-dyad congruence was most evident as dyads discussed definitions of meaning or quality of life. Conclusions Dyadic perspectives on end of life, meaning in life, and quality of life can inform how palliative care and VAD teams approach conversations about planning for the end of life. Findings from this study can inform future shared decision-making interventions for patients living with VADs and their caregivers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)229-237
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Cardiovascular Nursing
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2021


  • caregiving
  • end of life
  • heart failure
  • palliative care
  • quality of life
  • ventricular assist devices

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Advanced and Specialized Nursing


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