Confronting AIDS-related loss and grief: an exploratory study of professional caregivers1 in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
AbstractAs a result of the high mortality rate associated with AIDS, professional caregivers witness ongoing loss among clients. Besides finding ways to assist the dying and the bereaved, caregivers must cope with their own feelings surrounding loss. The purpose of this descriptive exploratory study is to examine caregivers' perceptions of the impact of AIDS-related deaths on clients, caregivers' experiences helping bereaved clients, caregivers' own feelings about dealing with AIDS-related loss, and other aspects of their job. In-depth interviews were conducted separately with eight caregivers employed in programmes with various organisations serving people infected or affected by HIV/AIDS in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Caregivers expressed difficulty in assisting clients with their grief due to several factors, including more-pressing client needs (such as economic survival), clients' reticence to talk about their grief, inadequate preparation for dealing with death and bereavement as professionals, and scarce organisational resources. Exposure to ongoing loss was very difficult for caregivers, and, despite the rewards associated with HIV/AIDS work, several that I interviewed could not foresee working in this field much longer.
Keywords: bereavement, burnout, death, palliative care, people living with HIV or AIDS, support
African Journal of AIDS Research 2006, 5(2): 97–107