Palliative care for bereaved children in Zimbabwe

Categories: Care.

Island Hospice and Health Care (Island) was conceived in response to a need in the community for palliative and bereavement care services, and has provided a comprehensive bereavement counselling service for all ages since its inception in 1979. 

Besides providing ongoing support for families whose relatives died in hospice care, the bereavement service has offered individual, couples and family therapeutic sessions, a wide range of bereavement support groups for widows, family survivors of suicide and other traumatic deaths, adolescent support groups and an extensive programme of children’s groups.

Bereaved children’s groups were developed in 1992, offering a day long programme of activities, support and sharing for bereaved children from the ages of 5-20 years in tandem with family counselling and ongoing support. 

Minor adjustments, including regularity of group sessions affected by diminished human resources, have been integrated in response to changes and demands created by political and economic instability in the country, but the programme in essence remains valid and appropriate as bereavement support for children. 

The Young Carers group also supports those bereaved children who have also, by force of circumstances, found themselves caring for a dying relative. 

Partnerships have been developed since 1998 between Island and various orphan care systems, including established children’s homes and community groups where a high orphan population exists. 

A programme that integrates a direct service for children, training for community volunteers working with children and support for the carers has been successful. 

Professional support and supervision for primary and secondary carers is an integral part of this programme, acknowledging the stress of caring for often terminally ill children whilst they themselves are HIV+ and bereaved.

Dr Val Maasdorp, Clinical Director of Island Hospice and Healthcare, said: “The pain and suffering that children who are bereaved go through is immense, and it is important that we provide bereavement services that will support them and enable them to work through their grief.”

This article was first published as a case study in the report: Hidden Lives, Hidden Patients, commissioned for World Hospice and Palliative Care Day 2015. The report can be found on the Worldwide Hospice Palliative Care Alliance website and will be officially launched on 10 October 2015 as part of the World Hospice and Palliative Care Day celebrations. To find out more or to register an event for the Day, please visit the World Hospice and Palliative Care Day webpage

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