Health challenges of elderly people caring for children orphaned by AIDS in a community setting in South Africa
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The HIV epidemic has resulted in the death of many people in their reproductive years, leaving behind orphans who are sometimes cared for by their elderly relatives despite the feebleness of their aging bodies. The purpose of the study was to explore and describe the health challenges of elderly people caring for children orphaned by AIDS. This research was conducted as a qualitative phenomenological exploratory, descriptive, and contextual study, conducted in the Mafikeng Municipality of North-West province in South Africa. Data were collected from December 2011 to February 2012 through individual face-to-face interviews and field notes. Elderly people’s health challenges in caring for children orphaned by AIDS centred on physical, psycho-emotional, economic and, psychosocial constraints, linked to re-parenting at an old age or because of losing their own children and relatives to AIDS. They experienced physical exhaustion as a challenge of caring for the children orphaned by AIDS as the capacity of their bodies was now reduced and they also had to meet the physical, emotion and spiritual needs of the orphans as well as providing them with food, clothing and shelter. Lack of sleep, dizziness, elevated blood pressure, low glucose levels and asthmatic attacks were also aggravated by contemplating how to fend for these children or owing to the fact that the orphans were very stubborn and took the elderly for granted. This study afforded an understanding of the health challenges elderly people experience in caring for children orphaned by AIDS. The study also recommended some of the interventions that can assist elderly people in this role they play of caring. Based on the findings, it can be deduced that on top of health challenges they face, they are obliged to deal with the added burden of caring for orphaned children by AIDS.