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Medication adherence, Decision-making, Heart failure, Narrative inquiry



  1. Meraz, Rebecca PhD, MSN, RN, CCRC, CHFN-K


Background: More than half of all patients with heart failure (HF) do not take medications as prescribed, resulting in negative health outcomes. Research has shown that medication adherence may be intentional rather than the ability to follow prescribed regimens, yet very little is known about medication-taking decisions in older patients with HF.


Objective: The purpose of this qualitative study was to gain insight into the decision-making processes and experiences of older patients with HF by exploring the different aspects in choosing to take or not take medications as prescribed in the community setting.


Methods: Using a narrative inquiry approach, the personal narratives of 11 adults 65 years or older who took at least 2 daily medications for HF were gathered using in-depth, semistructured interviews. The data in this study were organized and analyzed using Riessman's framework for narrative analysis.


Results: Participants made intentional decisions to take particular medications differently than prescribed. A worrisome symptom prompted a naturalistic decision-making process. When a medication interfered with attaining a personal goal, participants coped by individualizing their medication regimen. Participants did not consider taking a medication differently than prescribed as nonadherence but a necessary aspect of maintaining a personal level of health, which could be seen as self-care.


Conclusions: The older patient with HF should be carefully assessed for nonadherence. The development of interventions that are patient specific, target medications with the greatest potential for nonadherence, and use easy-to-access resources may promote decisions for medication adherence. More research is needed to develop interventions that promote decisions for medication adherence.