Three NRIs — from California, Miami, and London, got together for a candid chat about long-distance caregiving. The discussion prompted questions on India’s healthcare system, its capabilities for caregiving for the elderly living alone, and more.
ParentCare founder Bharat Vasandani who lives in the UK and has parents in Mumbai, India, spoke to two other NRIs — Rajiv Mehta lives in California, USA, and has parents in Mumbai, India, and Sachin Gursahani, lives in Florida and has his mother in Mumbai, India. Here are some subjects discussed:
● NRI guilt — why does it happen and how to make it easier?
● Daughters or sons — who cares about parents more?
● Long-distance caregiving — during sickness and routine needs
When people move to new countries and leave their parents behind, there’s one feeling that’s too hard to keep away — guilt. The guilt of not being able to stay closer to parents and the regret of not being around during emergencies… Psychologists call it moral guilt, something that comes from the violation of one’s moral codes.
Bharat has been living in the UK for five years and wishes that things could be simpler to manage from outside India with the help of professional caregiving services. Sachin seconds this,
“I think that life in the US and life in India is completely different. In the US, you have a lot of services available at your fingertips through a phone call or through the Internet. The last time I visited India was 10 years ago. So my knowledge gap is increasing every year.”
Rajiv experiences bouts of unsaid guilt not being able to do much for his parents. One such unfortunate incident of his mother who had a fall made him realize the necessity for caregiving services. However, he feels that people in India are less responsive to emails and lag behind in terms of communication, so one is left worried and helpless.
However, guilt is a feeling that can be managed. Psychologist Jonice Webb eloquently explains why children must understand, accept and manage guilt that stems from not being with their parents.
“Your feelings are your feelings, and you have them for a reason. But, for you, guilt is not helpful. It is your responsibility to manage your guilt so that you can own and manage your other feelings. Then your relationship with your parents will finally make sense to you.”
Daughters or sons?
Maybe women are more emotional or express emotions better than men do, but does that mean they care more for their parents?
From his experience at ParentCare, Bharat has noticed that NRI women are more concerned for their parents back in India, compared to men. Sachin thinks otherwise.
“I don’t think feeling guilty is gender-specific. Women can express their emotions a little better than men do.”
Rajiv feels men tend to hide their feelings, and it’s part of their personality. However, when it comes to parents who are in their 70s, and 80s, any uncalled turn of events that may happen to them hits equally to both the genders. Hence who shows more concern has little relevance based on gender.
Long-distance caregiving services can help
In India, there’s a lack of proper focus on healthcare services. Sachin firmly believes that trust is an essential factor:
“Indian parents are used to getting a certain kind of care, and they only trust people whom they know. So arranging for some care facility across the ocean without understanding one’s parents’ needs and introducing them to an entirely new service may not be received well as they are unaware of such a service. So, there is an unsettling clash between the known and the unknown.”
Rajiv feels while there is insurance-based healthcare in India, it isn’t as broad and extensive as what you find in the US. If there is an emergency, there isn’t any information or direct contact to reach out to a reliable healthcare facility.
“Less visibility and transparency of the healthcare providers make it inconvenient for him to arrange for the best services for his parents.”
Specific measures can ensure long-distance caregiving becomes easier for NRIs. What could be some of these measures?
Clear, precise, helpful information: Unlike other sectors that have useful information available online, clear information about caregiving can make a massive difference to
NRIs who are searching for health care support for their parents in India.
Visibility: Services exist, but if they’re not visible, it’s of no use. Rajiv elaborates this point, “I don’t know who to contact, all service providers don’t have websites, finding cost information is difficult, besides there’s no transparency. Having such information online would make a huge difference.”
Affordable services: When searching for services online, comparing the costs of different services and providers can help NRIs make decisions faster and based on their specific requirements.
Use of long-distance services for routine care: Not just during sickness and emergencies, long-distance care-giving services can be used to make parents’ everyday lives easier, too. Services can be used to run parents’ daily errands, take them for routine health check-ups, and more such needs.
Your thoughts on the table
As an NRI, what kind of caregiving services would you like in India? What do you find the most difficult when keeping in touch with your family back home? What are some of the specific routine caregiving services that could make your parents’ life easier?
If you have suggestions or comments, or if you want to publish your story, we’re all ears.