On my own: Experiences of recovery from acute coronary syndrome for women living alone

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Journal Article
Heart and Lung: Journal of Acute and Critical Care, 2008, 37 (6), pp. 417 - 424
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Objective: Women who live alone are becoming an increasing proportion of our population, yet few studies have examined the experiences that these women have during recovery from an acute cardiac event. This study aims to describe women's experiences of recovering alone from acute coronary syndrome. Methods: Women attending cardiac rehabilitation were interviewed 3 to 9 months after acute coronary syndrome using a life history approach to address their personal/social background, professional life, and work-related processes, and to acquire an in-depth narrative of their recovery from illness in relation to this background. The sample included 11 women aged from 44 to 82 years who lived alone. Results: "Being on my own" was the pervasive theme, with independence being both required and valued. One subtheme included the complexity of social support arrangements women needed for their recovery. This was particularly important because women felt vulnerable when they were alone, particularly if they had experienced a sudden cardiac event or recurrent symptoms. Recurrent cardiac symptoms were an important subtheme because of the pervasive influence on women's lives, including their ability to work and plan ahead. Finally, the work and financial issues subtheme was a central concern for women, first because work was an important source of income and enjoyment, and second because loss of work meant loss of income. For some women, this meant selling their home or moving to another house. Conclusion: Women who live alone are an increasing proportion of patients with cardiac disease. Although they share many similar issues with other women and men who live alone, they seem to have unique concerns related to vulnerability, recurrent cardiac symptoms, social support, work, and finances. Crown Copyright © 2008.
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