Bhavana Issar's Personal Experience
This piece is an honest reflection of caregiving from a distance. I reposted this piece as it gives an insightful perspective and coping techniques. Bhavana is leading the discussion at the EOHO connect series this Friday. Please attend by confirming here https://www.eoho.info/events To my male friends, this session is open to you. I hope to see you there!!
Caregiving is often embedded so deep in our familial and social roles that many of us do not identify as caregivers. The current times have precipitated the caregiving responsibilities and challenges for most of us and almost all of us have a peek into the life of a caregiver, many of us as long-distance caregivers. Long-distance caregiving comes with an emotional whirlwind of helplessness, anxiety, fear, guilt etc. Here is my experience, my story.
There has been so much going around us these days regarding health, healthcare, and caregiving thanks to the pandemic. In fact, it is being extensively written about - whether it is the collective grief we are experiencing (that I referenced to in the last month) or that millennials are becoming caregivers earlier than they had anticipated. If you think about it, we are getting a peek into the life of a caregiver - experiencing the burden, anxiety, stress, unpredictability, social isolation, and the potential implications on mental health that comes with caregiving. This is exactly how the life of a caregiver goes and is often invisible, unrecognized, and under-appreciated. The life of a caregiver is frequently deprioritized. The month of July was personally a complex month for me with many dynamic developments and the life and challenges of a caregiver were front and center for me.
Earlier in the month my father-in-law fell and what was thought to be a BP/ low sodium issue soon became complex and he needed to be hospitalized. My in-laws are based in Noida and naturally, we decided that my husband will travel to provide care and support. When hospitalized, we discovered that he was Covid positive and needed intensive care. The other family members - my mother-in-law, husband, and brother-in-law who were in contact with him needed to be tested immediately. While my husband was tested positive, fortunately the other two did not. My brother-in-law had some other suspected infection. And soon from being a well-wisher/ family of the primary caregiver, I also became a long-distance caregiver. The brothers experienced very tense and trying days as my father-in-law was taken to GangaRam Hospital in Delhi for treatment. His intensive treatment involved ICU, 4 units of blood, and 4 units of plasma from a donor with Covid anti-bodies. Needless to say, it was a period of intense stress and anxiety. To cut the long story short, there was a lot going on and the only way that I found myself able to cope with a sense of calm and sanity was taking one day (sometimes one hour) at a time. Keeping up with my meditation and recognizing that there were boundaries to my capacity, I cut down on the number of things I was doing and focused on my daughter and the prior professional commitments that were the most time-sensitive. I was irregular with my BP medicines and perhaps the situation triggered it, and my body indicated that I required rest. It must have been chaotic for my teen daughter and I can only imagine what she grappled with, deeply affected by her dad being tested positive. As is instinctive for me perhaps, I chose to think of the task and people around me who may need to lean on me. In a very short period of time, I experienced being a long-distance caregiver, being a well-wisher of a caregiver (being a degree away from the primary caregiver), and being the care-receiver as well. The sheer helplessness and one's inability to do anything despite the love or the desire to can be very frustrating. And I reminded myself again and again that this will pass and we'll get through it.
Once again, I learned how critical it is for caregivers to maintain self-care both physically and mentally. Although I was able to navigate the time with a certain sense of calm and unexplained assurance that all will be well, once in a while I'd wonder what if I was being delusional. I think a part of me was also determined to cross the proverbial bridge when I came to it. So, if there was no reason to panic, there was no reason to fear that which had not happened and no reason to anticipate the endless possibilities. Instead, although my BP had shot through the roof, I took medical advice and focussed on my daughter's 15th birthday, taking baby steps to regain my health and getting back on track knowing very well that I will cross the bridge in my own time.
Experiencing all the roles related to the caregiver up-close and personal has increased my conviction on the significance of shining light on the caregivers. In a conversation with a very dear friend, I was also sharing how many of us do not self-identify as caregivers. She was shocked when I called her a 'long-distance caregiver' for her mother. Is there even a term like that? I don't know if there is a term like that but it is indeed a crisp way of defining who many of us are. We are responsible daughters, sons, and family members who care for our friends and family. Very often we are long-distance caregivers. It is essential to recognize that this is a role separate from our familial role. When we are able to do that, we can recognize that being a caregiver needs skills, orientation, services, support, and needs that we may not have. Just because I am a dedicated daughter does not make me a competent caregiver. Its completely okay to take help and support for one's needs - physical, emotional, or mental. As caregivers, we need to understand and appreciate this.
I am one of those who don't easily share our reach out especially in times of crises. But this time, when I connected and shared with those who reached out to me, it felt different, a nice different.
Oh and, by the way, the status in my family as of now is that my father-in-law is back home with a miraculous recovery as acknowledged by the doctors. There will, however, be some time before he can be independent but he is showing significant progress. Gaurav is also, now, Covid negative (he was positive for too long... no pun intended!) and will complete his quarantine this week. My brother-in-law is back in Singapore and will be reunited with his family soon. We are very grateful for the grace and kindness of the universe. I'm one of those who may have sounded like I was calm and composed and I was taking it in my stride. I'm conscious of that and reflecting on it. More on that later.
*This is from the Caregiver Saathi Newsletter Aug 2020, and after a reflections on pushing a personal boundary, I am sharing it here as a personal experience. *
There is still a road to recovery and healing for all of us (pikchur abhi baaki hai) but we've come a long way, and I wonder if I travel the rest of this path with some of you.
I'm very grateful to the support of family, friends, doctors, well-wishers, my team who reached out in sensitive ways - Tarul Nangia, Apoorva Gupta Jalan, Chiranjib Chatterjee, Rajam K Iyer, Rajani Surendar Bhat, Smriti Rana, Priyanka Devgan Shruti Sharma Baijal Raji Duggal, Anil Ladha , walked this path with us.
Sending you all love and warmth from a pouring Mumbai as we navigate the ambiguity this year has unleashed on us.
* This was a post/ sharing on facebook on 11th Aug 2020 (https://www.facebook.com/bhavana.issar/posts/10160016019388998) - reproduced here*
If you have caregiving experiences, do share them with us at www.caregiversaathi.co.in
Telling our story and experience is healing for the teller and can be comforting for others who are navigating similar challenges.
Bhavana thank you for sharing!
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I wish you love, light, happiness and Freedom
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