Objective To assess the experiences of unpaid caregivers providing care to people with heart failure (HF) or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or coronary artery disease (CAD). Design Mixed methods systematic review including qualitative and quantitative studies. Data sources Databases searched: Medline Ebsco, PsycInfo, CINAHL Plus with Full Text, Embase, Web of Science, Ethos: The British Library and ProQuest. Grey literature identified using: Global Dissertations and Theses and Applied Sciences Index and hand searches and citation checking of included references. Search time frame: 1 January 1990 to 30 August 2017. Eligibility criteria for selecting studies Inclusion was limited to English language studies in unpaid adult caregivers (>18 years), providing care for patients with HF, COPD or CAD. Studies that considered caregivers for any other diagnoses and studies undertaken in low-income and middle-income countries were excluded. Quality assessment of included studies was conducted by two authors. Data analysis/synthesis A results-based convergent synthesis was conducted. Results Searches returned 8026 titles and abstracts. 54 studies—21 qualitative, 32 quantitative and 1 mixed method were included. This totalled 26 453 caregivers who were primarily female (63%), with median age of 62 years. Narrative synthesis yielded six concepts related to caregiver experience: (1) mental health, (2) caregiver role, (3) lifestyle change, (4) support for caregivers, (5) knowledge and (6) relationships. There was a discordance between paradigms regarding emerging concepts. Four concepts emerged from qualitative papers which were not present in quantitative papers: (1) expert by experience, (2) vigilance, (3) shared care and (4) time. Conclusion Caregiving is life altering and complex with significant health implications. Health professionals should support caregivers who in turn can facilitate the recipient to manage their long-term condition. Further longitudinal research exploring the evolution of caregiver experiences over time of patients with chronic cardiopulmonary conditions is required. Trial registration number CRD42016053412



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BMJ Open







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School of Health Professions