• heart failure;
  • adaptation to chronic disease;
  • phenomenology;
  • interviews;
  • women's health care;
  • older women

Aim of the study.  This phenomenological study sought to examine and describe the experience of living with heart failure (HF) from the perspective of five women who live with Stage II HF.

Background.  Research has shown that women are affected by HF differently than men, having different risk factors, a higher increase in mortality per decade, and longer survival after diagnosis. Women have also been greatly under-represented in studies of HF. A search of the literature revealed only one Swedish study examining the overall impact of HF on women's conceptions of their own lives.

Research methods.  Four 1-hour semi-structured interviews were held with each participant. Colaizzi's steps were used to analyse the verbatim transcripts of the interviews, drawing meanings from the participants' words.

Findings.  Four main themes emerged from the data: ‘Acknowledging Losses in Their Lives’, ‘Accepting the Losses’, ‘Changing Their Lives’ and ‘Deepening Relationships’. Additionally, each theme contained several subthemes.

Conclusion.  Findings from this study indicate that no aspect of women's lives escapes the impact of HF. It causes immense losses in many areas of life, and requires tremendous changes in many aspects of daily living. Yet, drawing on inner resources of great strength and courage, these women learn to find contentment in their lives. They discover ways to create productive lives and deeply meaningful relationships, within the boundaries imposed by HF.