Support needs of caregivers: case studies in South Africa

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Limpopo is one of the poorest provinces in South Africa with limited resources to support caregivers and individuals who are learning disabled. Offering support and care to children with learning disabilities can be a complex and difficult task to achieve. Caregivers carry great responsibility for ensuring the needs of children in their care are met. Such responsibility can generate great amounts of stress that may negatively impact caregivers' day-to-day functioning. Yet, research concerning how to support caregivers in meeting the needs of this group of children in Limpopo has never before been carried out.


To investigate the support needs of caregivers caring for children with learning disabilities.


A case study design of three families of children with learning disabilities was used. Data were generated in two phases using a semi-structured interview format. In phase 1, participants were interviewed in their homes. Phase 2 relates to follow-up interviews of participants in a community clinic. All data were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis.


The study identified a range of support needs for caregivers. Examples of these include financial, emotional, practical support, training, respite care, affiliate stigma and partnership working.


Caring for children with learning disabilities was perceived as difficult and frustrating, yet rewarding. This difficulty was noted to be compounded by caregivers' lack of skills and knowledge of caring for these children. They also had experiences of stigma, which sometimes involves overt acts of discrimination and social exclusion that further added to their frustration.


The study findings have implications for practice and policy. Regular training and support should be offered to caregivers in order to broaden their understanding of learning disabilities and enhance their caring ability. Nurses are the main source of training and support and offer these during clinic-based engagement and home visits.

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