Original Research

Caring for a child with Cerebral Palsy: The experience of Zimbabwean mothers

Jermaine M. Dambi, Jennifer Jelsma, Tecla Mlambo
African Journal of Disability | Vol 4, No 1 | a168 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ajod.v4i1.168 | © 2015 Jermaine M. Dambi, Jennifer Jelsma, Tecla Mlambo | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 28 October 2014 | Published: 13 August 2015

About the author(s)

Jermaine M. Dambi, Department of Rehabilitation, University of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe
Jennifer Jelsma, Department of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Tecla Mlambo, Department of Rehabilitation, University of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe


Background: The needs of caregivers of children with disability may not be recognized despite evidence to suggest that they experience increased strain because of their care-giving role. This strain may be exacerbated if they live in under-resourced areas.

Objectives: We set out to establish the well-being of caregivers of children with Cerebral Palsy (CP) living in high-density areas of Harare, Zimbabwe. In addition, we wished to identify factors that might be predictive of caregivers’ well-being. Finally, we examined the psychometric properties of the Caregiver Strain Index (CSI) within the context of the study.

Method: Caregivers of 46 children with CP were assessed twice, at baseline, and after three months, for perceived burden of care and health-related quality of life (HRQoL) using CSI and EQ-5D respectively. The psychometric properties of the CSI were assessed post hoc.

Results: The caregivers reported considerable caregiver burden with half of the caregivers reporting CSI scores in the ‘clinical distress’ range. Many of the caregivers experienced some form of pain, depression and expressed that they were overwhelmed by the care-giving role. No variable was found to be associated with clinical distress. The CSI demonstrated good overall internal consistency (Cronbach’s Alpha = 0.8), stability over time (Z = 0.87, p = 0.381) and was significantly and negatively correlated with the EQ-5D VAS (Spearman’s rho = −0.33, p = 0.027), demonstrating concurrent validity.

Conclusion: Caregivers must be monitored routinely for their level of distress and there is an urgent need to provide them with support. The CSI is likely to be a valid measure of distress in this population.


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