Tips for Caregivers : Coronavirus

Finding strength in spirituality

By: Nusmila Lohani


Sirisha is an Indian-American based in New Jersey. She is one of many South Asians living in America while her parents live in her home country. Read about her experience traveling unexpectedly to India to look after her mother.

Name: Sirisha

Age: 43

Occupation: Home-maker

Nationality: Indian-American

Preferred language: English

Who do you care for? Mother, Age 62

Does your mother live with you? No

What is your favorite thing about your mother? "Work is worship for my mother, her belief in hard work"

Can you tell me about your mother's health condition?

My mother had 97% artery blockage. This was found out during a regular check-up in May 2018. She is highly diabetic too.

What happened then?

My mother called my sibling (who lives in Texas) and me to take a decision. I had to leave immediately. My children were in school at the time.

For how long did you have to be away?

I had to leave for two months, but my stay ended up to be three months long.

What happened when you arrived in Hyderabad, India?

My mother was admitted to hospital. Her heart condition required stent placements. She lost tremendous weight post-surgery. I had to take her to the doctor’s appointments regularly. My mother needed moral support. She did not have the strength to do anything. She was feeling very lonely and was not ready to let me go.

What was the most overwhelming aspect of the whole episode?

It was a difficult situation. I had to choose between my mom and kids. My daughter was 13 and my son was 10 years old at the time. My kids looked for me when they came home from school. And the time difference between New Jersey and Hyderabad is huge.

How did you manage?
I kept my phone on the bedside table and made phone calls at 2 or 3 am to talk to my daughter about her school issues, etc. I hardly had any sleep for three months.
Did you get any assistance in taking care of your mother when you were in Hyderabad?

There was a house maid who cooked and cleaned the house. Back in NJ, I had friends who checked in on my children.

Do you find it difficult to see your mother vulnerable?

Emotionally, she had taken a rollercoaster ride. My mother is now retired, she worked as a principal at a government college in Hyderabad.

It’s hard when parents are getting old. There is a lot of pain. Neither of my parents are doing too great. My father also has had a stent placement for his 75% artery blockage. He has been complaining about hip pain, possibly due to low bone density at age 77.

How things would have been different if you were living in your home country?

India is better in terms of house help. But life here is easier to handle than it is in India. My parents do not want to relocate; and so my life is torn between my kids and parents.

What did you do to cope with the stress of your responsibility of taking care of your mother in India while being away from your kids in New Jersey?

My spiritual strength helped me. I surrendered to God, it really helped me to take the situation positively.

How is your mother now? How often do you talk to her?

I speak very often with her, at least twice a week. Plus, there is whatsapp messages. She also has a house maid. Currently my one concern is my mother’s hemoglobin level from her routine 3-month diabetic check-up.
Taking care of my children reduces my anxiety, it fills up the gaps.

If you were to give advice to others who are currently in similar situations like you are in taking care of their parents who are overseas, what would you tell them?

My word of advice would be spiritual strength and to try to look at the positive. My kids started to learn how to become independent when I was in Hyderabad. I was happy to see what had happened. So I would say, look at the positives.

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