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07 May 2003

What about the caretaker?

In whatever capacity you provide care to persons with HIV/Aids, you are exposed to stressful situations that will impact on your life and relationships.

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In whatever capacity you provide care to persons with HIV/Aids, you are exposed to stressful situations that will impact on your life and relationships.

Some of these experiences of stress are specific to the context of HIV/Aids, while others are general to the caring role itself. If you do not take time to generate some awareness of the sources and effects of stress in your life, they may lead to burnout and disenchantment. Becoming more aware of the sources and symptoms of your stress may motivate you to care for yourself as a giver of care to others.

Stress and burnout
Burnout or role-stress may be defined as ‘a syndrome of physical and emotional exhaustion, involving the development of a negative self-concept, negative job attitudes, and loss of concern and feelings for clients’ (Pines & Maslach, 1978, p. 233).

The following are some of the reasons why caregivers experience burnout:

  • Stigma associated with HIV and Aids
  • Secrecy and fear of disclosure among people with Aids
  • Over-involvement with people with Aids and their families
  • Personal identification with the suffering of people with Aids
  • “Difficult” patients
  • The terrible plight of children
  • A demanding workload
  • A lack of support from superiors
  • Financial hardships (of both patients and caregivers)
  • Training and skills lacking
  • Isolation and no support (especially of family members who are also caregivers)
 
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