Challenges faced by informal caregivers of patients in a Nigerian hospital and implications for social work

Ngozi Chukwu, Prince Agwu (Lead / Corresponding author), Henry Ajibo, Ngozi Aronu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
130 Downloads (Pure)


Summary: Unlike in the global-north where care of hospital in-patients is within the remit of the nursing and social care staff, the burden of care in most Nigerian hospitals is borne by informal caregivers who are relatives, family members or friends of the in-patients. Their unpaid roles in ensuring health and wellbeing of in-patients cannot be overstated, yet they remain often invisible to and unappreciated by hospital authorities. We used in-depth interviews to glean lived experiences of 24 informal caregivers in a tertiary hospital in Nigeria. This study adopted phenomenology as its overall theoretical underpinning that guided data collection and analysis. As also recommended by phenomenology, thematic clusters were employed for analysis.

Findings: The narratives of the respondents revealed that caregiving constitutes a lot of ordeals which are worsened by some unwholesome conditions in the hospital for informal caregivers who seem to be left to fend for themselves. Three overarching themes emerged from the interviews which are, challenges of informal caregivers, conditions that exacerbate the challenges, and steps to improve coping capacities.

Applications: Informal caregivers remain an essential force in the care of hospitalised patients yet are poorly attended to by healthcare authorities. There is a need to pay attention to their needs through a comprehensive health policy to accommodate them as a priority concern in the care of patients. Social workers can be meaningful in scaling up responses and response plans to that effect. Hence, the need to advance the professionalisation of social work in Nigeria deserves speedier attention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1189-1206
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Social Work
Issue number5
Early online date15 Feb 2022
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022


  • carers
  • Health
  • health and social care
  • managed care
  • medical social work

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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