A support programme for caregivers of children with disabilities in Ghana: Understanding the impact on the wellbeing of caregivers

Maria Zuurmond, Gifty Nyante, Marjolein Baltussen, Janet Seeley, Jedidia Abanga, Tom Shakespeare, Martine Collumbien, Sarah Bernays

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Background: Four fifths of the estimated 150 million children with disability in the world live in resource poor settings where the role of the family is crucial in ensuring that these children survive and thrive. Despite their critical role, evidence is lacking on how to provide optimal support to these families. This study explores the impact of a participatory training programme for caregivers delivered through a local support group, with a focus on understanding caregiver wellbeing.

Methods: A qualitative longitudinal study was conducted to investigate the impact of a training programme, “getting to know cerebral palsy,” with caregivers on their wellbeing. Eighteen caregivers, from four districts, were interviewed up to three times over 14 months, to assess impact and the reasons for any changes.

Results: Low levels of knowledge, high levels of stigma, physical and emotional exhaustion, and often difficult family relationships with social exclusion of the child and caregiver were common themes at the outset. Caregivers struggled to combine their caring and economic activities. This was exacerbated by the common absence of the father. Two months after completion of the training, their reported wellbeing had improved. The reasons for this were an improved understanding about their child's condition, positive attitudinal change towards their child, feelings of hope, and through the group support, a profound realisation that they are “not on their own.” While relationships within the family remained complex in many cases, the support group offered an important and alternative social support network.

Conclusions: This study illustrates the many benefits of a relatively simple caregiver intervention, which has the potential to offer a mechanism to provide sustainable social support for caregivers and children with cerebral palsy. Any future programme needs to also address more structural issues, including stigma and discrimination, and strengthen approaches to family engagement.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-53
Number of pages9
JournalChild: Care, Health and Development
Issue number1
Early online date27 Sep 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2019


  • Ghana
  • caregiver
  • cerebral palsy
  • child disability
  • evaluation
  • wellbeing

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