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Exploring depression in grandparents caring for orphans as a result of HIV/AIDS.

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Background: In 2011 South Africa was home to 5,300,000 to 5,900,000 people living with HIV. An estimated 240,000 to 300,000 deaths due to AIDS occurred during this year, resulting in 2,000,000 to 2,300,000 orphans aged 0-17 years (UNAIDS, 2011). Grandmothers are increasingly recognised as African Heroes, as the ones looking after orphans and the sick, as primary care givers (Lewis, 2007). If depression is left untreated it can affect the grandparent’s health, as well as their ability to care for orphans. Aim: The aim of the study seeks to understand depression in grandparents as primary care givers to orphaned children and to explore factors that may contribute to depression. Method: This study used a qualitative, interpretive phenomenological research approach. Data was obtained through semi-structured focus group discussions using three focus groups with 4-5 participants. Thematic analysis was used to analyse the data. Results: Findings from the study suggest that a number of factors played a part in either precipitating or perpetuating depression in elderly caregivers of orphans. Socio economic status, namely a lack of food and income played a large role in the experience of depression. The results also point to social isolation and lack of support, as well as poor parenting skills as exacerbating factors. Conclusion: The literature review, along with the results of this study provides insights on how depression is experienced in elderly caregivers of orphans as well as contributing factors.. It is hoped that the results of this study will be useful in implementing effective interventions for grandparents of orphans in the future.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.