Background: Caregivers of children with cerebral palsy suffer from a substantial psychosocial burden. However, there is a scarcity of documentation of the various sources of burden in low- and middle-income settings.
Methods: We conducted qualitative in-depth interviews among mothers of children with cerebral palsy attending a physiotherapy facility. We purposively sampled mothers from rural and peri-urban areas in Tamil Nadu, India, till the point of data saturation. We analysed the transcripts using the socio-ecological model to identify the major dimensions of psychosocial burden among these mothers.
Results: At the individual level the mothers perceived aches and pains due to the heavy physical activity of caregiving. They also suffered from a feeling of guilt about the child's condition. Due to the difficulty in balancing family and work, they had significant financial burdens. They also perceived a lack of knowledge and awareness about possible options for the treatment of their child. At the interpersonal level, the mothers lacked support from their husband and family in the process of caregiving. They also had to suffer the ill effects of alcoholism and domestic violence from their husbands. They had to compromise on the care they provided to the other family members and their children without cerebral palsy. At the community level, the mothers had no support from the community members and felt isolated from others. The mothers also reported discrimination and lack of participation in social events. Environmental stressors like lack of inclusive public spaces, lack of options for public transport and unfriendly work timings and environment were major sources of burden. The mothers felt that the disability welfare support offered by the government was grossly insufficient and there was no platform for interactions with other peers and mothers suffering from a similar burden.
Conclusion: Caregivers of children with cerebral palsy have unique burdens in a typical low- and middle-income setting including an intersection of gender norms, poverty, stigmatization and non-inclusive public policy, which need to be addressed to improve the quality of life of caregivers.