Open-heart surgery: Consequences for caregivers

D. J. Monahan, L. Kohman, M. Coleman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Heart disease is a debilitating illness accountingfor almost half of the deaths in the United States and its pathophysiology has been intensively investigated (Kerson & Kerson, 1985). Consequences of heart disease for the family system, particularly for spouses, are less well understood. The purpose of this study was to assess stressors and needs of spouses of patients undergoing open-heart surgery. Furthermore, changes in work, marital satisfaction, andsocial support were assessed prior to and after surgery. Ninety-nine spouses of patients undergoing open-heart surgerywere enrolled in the study and completed a 10-page survey instrument; 59 completed the follow-up instrument six weeks after the surgery. The most problematic stressors for spouses were fear of death, chronic illness, and sleep disturbances. Services that caregivers identified as the “most needed,” by them or the patient (prior to surgery), were exercise prescriptions and preoperative education. After surgery, the “ most needed ” services were support groups and referrals to community services. Respondents reported considerable alterations in work schedulesafter surgery. Although marital satisfaction was relativelystable, prior to and after surgery, satisfaction with sex was the lowest category assessed at both times. Satisfactionwith communication declined significantly after surgery.There was some variability in perception of social support, although it remained stable in 11 out of 15 areas after surgery. Knowledge gained from this study should reinforce theimportance to social workers of targeting services to spouses of open-heart surgery patients since they play a vital partin the process of convalescence and survival.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)53-70
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Gerontological Social Work
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Jan 1 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Nursing (miscellaneous)


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