The Plight of Older Persons as Caregivers to People Infected/Affected by HIV/AIDS: Evidence from Uganda
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- Ssengonzi, R. J Cross Cult Gerontol (2007) 22: 339. doi:10.1007/s10823-007-9043-5
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This paper describes the challenges faced by elderly persons (50 years and above) in Uganda, as parents and/or relatives of persons infected by HIV and as caregivers of the infected relatives and their uninfected children. Little is known regarding these indirect impacts of HIV/AIDS on the elderly in sub-Saharan Africa. Yet, the elderly are most often the main caregivers of HIV-infected persons and their families. Data used in this study were obtained from focus group discussions and in-depth interviews conducted among elderly respondents in 10 rural and urban communities within two Ugandan districts, Luwero and Kamuli. Findings indicate that the elderly do provide care to patients with AIDS at the terminal stage of the illness—when patients most need constant care. In most cases, the challenge of caring for the sick patients is compounded by the responsibility to care for the children affected by HIV/AIDS, which also starts when their parents are still living, not when the children become orphans. This demanding work was reported to negatively affect the elderly in various dimensions (economic, emotional, physical, and nutritional), all of which impacts their health and well-being. The responsibility for day-to-day patient care is borne primarily by elderly females, who reported a higher rate of physical ailments than male respondents—perhaps an indication of their disproportionate contribution to the care responsibilities. Most of the elderly respondents interviewed have a lot of anxiety about their future health and well-being, which they attributed in most part to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. These challenges do appear to exacerbate the aging process of the elderly whose health and well-being are already affected by the poor resource base and weak health infrastructure in this setting.