Pastoral care for bereaved elderly women in the context of HIV and AIDS : a case study of Dzenza congregation women's guild members of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP) Lilongwe - Malawi.
The HIV and AIDS epidemic in Africa, specifically in Malawi, has presented itself as a threat to the care of bereaved elderly women who have lost adult children to AIDS related illnesses. While battling grief, these elderly women find themselves inevitably obliged to take care of the grandchildren left behind by their children who in most cases had been breadwinners. The main objective of this study is to assess the appropriateness and effectiveness of the pastoral care for bereaved elderly women provided by the Women’s Guild of Dzenza congregationof the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian. The study poses the question that: if bereaved elderly women are principal caregivers in the context of HIV and AIDS, then who is caring for them? The study draws its insights from a qualitative study based on interviews with ten bereaved elderly women and, in addition, nine Women’s Guild members, the church Minister at the time of the interviews, and five church elders. There were four men and one woman. All together they were 25 participants. The methods used for the collection of data were in-depth individual, open ended interviews and focus group meeting. The collected data was analysed by typing and coding the material according to key themes that emerged in the interviews. ‘Shepherding a Woman’s Heart’ and ‘Feminist Pastoral Care’ are the two theories that were used to analyse the existing pastoral care and the findings of the study. The findings revealed that most elderly women encounter different challenges while taking care of their ill adult children until the time of their death. The elderly women also face the challenge of bringing up their grandchildren before and after the death of the parents. Some of these challenges concern health issues and the psychological, financial, spiritual and social impacts of the loss of their children and the responsibility for their grandchildren. In order to develop an appropriate and effective approach to pastoral care, the Women’s Guild needs to take these impacts into account. On the basis of the findings of the present study, there is a need to develop a manual on pastoral care giving for the Women’s Guild, focusing on issues of health, psychological, financial, spiritual and social aspects that play a role in the context of HIV and AIDS.