To adjust and endure: A qualitative study of symptom burden in older people with multimorbidity

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Context: Older people with multimorbidity are vulnerable and often suffer from conditions that produce a multiplicity of symptoms and a reduced health-related quality of life. Objectives: The aim of this study is to explore the experience of living with a high symptom burden from the perspective of older community-dwelling people with multi-morbidity. Method: A qualitative descriptive design with semi-structured interviews, including 20 community-dwelling older people with multi-morbidity and a high symptom burden. The participants were 79-89 years old with a mean of 12 symptoms per person. Data were analyzed using content analyses. Results: The experience of living with a high symptom burden revealed the overall theme, "To adjust and endure" and three sub-themes. The first sub-theme was "To feel inadequate and limited". Participants reported that they no longer had the capacity or the ability to manage, and they felt limited and isolated from friends or family. The second sub-theme was "To feel dependent". This was a new and inconvenient experience; the burden they put on others caused a feeling of guilt. The final sub-theme was "To feel dejected". The strength to manage and control their conditions was gone; the only thing left to do was to sit or lie down and wait for it all to pass. Conclusion: This study highlights the importance of a holistic approach when taking care of older people with multi-morbidity. This approach should employ a broad symptom assessment to reveal diseases and conditions that are possible to treat or improve.


  • Jeanette Eckerblad
  • Kersti Theander
  • A. Ekdahl
  • Tiny Jaarsma
  • I. Hellstrom
External organisations
  • Linköping University
  • Karlstad University
  • Karolinska Institutet
Research areas and keywords


  • Content analysis, Multimorbidity, Older people, Symptom burden
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)322-327
Number of pages6
JournalApplied Nursing Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2015 Nov 1
Publication categoryResearch
Externally publishedYes