, Volume 36, Issue 2, pp 86-93

Caregiver burden and psychotic patients' perception of social support in a Nigerian setting

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Abstract

Background: In Nigeria, there are no national social welfare and community rehabilitation programmes for the mentally ill. Families have to bear the major burden of care. The present study aimed to assess the severity of indices of burden among relatives of 75 schizophrenics and 20 major affective disorder cases, to identify the factors associated with burden, to assess the relationship between caregiver burden and patients' perception of social support, and to compare these with equivalent data for cancer patients' relatives. Method: Caregivers were assessed, using a burden questionnaire and Goldberg's General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12). Patients were assessed for perception of social support from the extended family. Results: Clinical severity and burden indices were similar for the psychiatric illness groups. However, relatives of patients with psychotic symptoms, unco-operative behaviour, marital instability and unemployment had significantly higher GHQ scores; while patients from such families perceived a wider social support network. Financial burden was greater than effect on family routines. Disruption of family routines, GHQ scores and (inversely) size of family network patient expected support from, predicted global rating of burden. Although clinical severity and disruption of family routines for cancer patients were higher; relatives of psychiatric patients had higher GHQ scores, more family disharmony and greater social stigma. Conclusions: Disturbed behaviour is a greater determinant of severity of burden than psychiatric diagnosis; hence adequacy of treatment is a first step in reducing caregiver burden. The tolerance shown by this group of relatives implies that they have strong potentials for playing useful roles in community care. Research and policy should consider measures to strengthen extended family network ties in developing countries.

Accepted: 13 November 2000