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Tackling the escalating burden of care in Uganda: a qualitative exploration of the challenges experienced by family carers of patients with chronic non-communicable diseases.

BACKGROUND: Family carers face challenges that could significantly affect their health and the health of those they care for. However, these challenges are not well documented in low-income settings, including Uganda. We explored the challenges of caring for someone with chronic non-communicable disease (NCD) in Uganda.

METHODS: We conducted a qualitative exploratory study at Hospice Africa, Uganda (an urban setting) and Hampton Health Center (a rural setting) in Uganda in February and March 2021. Family carers (n = 44) were recruited using snowball and purposive sampling techniques. Data were collected using focus group discussions and in-depth interviews, gathering family carer perspectives of (a) their caring role (b) their support needs, and (c) attitudes of the wider community. In total, four focus group discussions and 10 individual interviews were completed.

RESULTS: The average age of carers was 46 years old. The majority of family care was provided by female relatives, who also experienced intersectional disadvantages relating to economic opportunities and employment. Family carers carried a huge burden of care, experiencing significant challenges that affected their physical health, and material and emotional well-being. These challenges also affected the quality of care of the patients for whom they cared. Carers struggled to provide for the basic needs of the patient including the provision of medication and transport to health facilities. Carers received no formal training and limited support to carry out the caring role. They reported that they had little understanding of the patient's illness, or how best to provide care.

CONCLUSIONS: As NCDs continue to rise globally, the role of family caregivers is becoming more prominent. The need to support carers is an urgent concern. Family carer needs should be prioritised in policy and resource allocation. The need for a carer's toolkit of resources, and the enhancement of community support, have been identified.

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