7 min read
Hi, I am Bharat, an NRI (Non-Resident Indian) living in London.
Whilst I work in Canary Wharf, my ageing parents are back in Mumbai. Every day at 7 a.m., I call my father to check if things are well. I keep in touch with my old friends and relatives just to confirm they still live in Mumbai to help if anything happens to my family. Does this sound familiar to you?
Having lived on another continent for the past five years, I have practically turned into a long-distance caregiver. Instead of having deep, meaningful conversations with my loved ones, I call to check on their blood pressure or recent test results. Days off aren’t used as holidays – instead they are taken up with remote visits and making arrangements, or speaking to home attendants, hospitals, domestic helpers and charities from the other side of the world.
How did it all start? The call I will always remember
When my mother was diagnosed with cancer, I knew I could not travel to India to be there with her throughout this turbulent journey. I received the call in September 2017 when we were preparing to welcome our first baby into the world. It was important that I support my parents but I also could not leave my pregnant wife alone in London. How I wished I could have been at both the places at the same time!
The following months were filled with doctor appointments (which my mother needed to get to and from), endless diagnostic tests (of which I couldn’t receive results), conventional and holistic treatment. I felt like I was never fully aware of what was happening and could not contribute as much as I wanted to.
It was exhausting for my father, too – the entire journey from identifying the right doctor to home care whilst also trying to manage his home and work life drained my parents. Most importantly, it took away their opportunity to spend time with each other. What my mother needed was not only the right medical treatment but also the time and emotional support from her loved ones.
When she finally started feeling better, we realised we had not spoken as a family should, in a long time. Most of the conversations over the 18 months of treatment had centred around managing the medical processes. This was a frustrating time because although we spoke every day, we missed out on connecting with each other on a deeper level.
Behind the scenes: what NRIs have to do every single day
My story might resonate with some of you out there. Although your experience might be different to the cancer journey my family had to deal with, we are still bonded by the struggle that is remote caregiving.
Aside from medical conditions, our parents are not getting any younger. There may come a time when they will need help with their daily routines – comment below which tasks you are already helping them with:
- Ongoing healthcare needs
Healthy lifestyle, exercising, operating medical equipment, managing and giving pills or injections.
- Household tasks
Help with bills, insurance claims, money management, home maintenance, laundry, cooking, shopping or transportation.
- Self-care and mobility
Bathing, grooming, feeding, toileting, dressing…
Companionship, leisure activities, and even resolving family conflicts.
I’ve spoken to hundreds of NRIs, and most of them mentioned they would seek help from other relatives and old friends. Quickly it became clear that this was not a long term solution as family and friends could not provide the desired level of care and support that is needed.
For long-term support, NRIs may try and book professional help such as a regular home care attendant or nurse. This is not as easy as it sounds – here are all the things required from a long-distance caregiver:
- Seek information from different medical service providers
- Communicate with doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and other health care providers
- Locate, arrange, and supervise social workers, home care aides, home-delivered meals, etc.
- Facilitate provider understanding
- Facilitate person and family understanding
- Order prescription medicines
- Deal with payments and insurance
Sounds like a full-time job, doesn’t it? If you know of any better ways of dealing these challenges, please message me on WhatsApp and I will explore them as well.
As an NRI, you have probably experienced guilt, and then anger – asking yourself questions such as “why me?”. Over time, a growing list of tasks can cause a strain on your relationship with your loved ones, while also impacting your home life. For me, the last five years have been spent trying to balance all of this.
Have you tried any sites or platforms? Can technology help NRIs?
When my mother was ill, I tried a couple of online platforms – I expected them to help me with medical arrangements and give me a chance to focus on emotional support. However, none of them could cover all the requirements. I had to jump from one platform to the other to sort out appointments, accompany my parents to tests, book cabs, choose insurance or store the latest medical reports online. The constant coordination ate up a lot of my time which could have been better spent with my mother.
Another challenging task was getting different service providers to talk to each other. I found the entire system to be quite untransparent in terms of the service provider and costs.
That was the starting point of ParentCare. I started working on this service a year ago, and now we have 2500+ doctors and 250+ labs across India from certified partners:
My genuine drive is to make long-distance support less stressful. Right now, we offer pay-per-use services if your parents need help now, or a completely free registration for future needs (limited time offer, 100 NRIs families only):
You can also WhatsApp me any time. I can help you assess your situation or take on board any feedback you have on the matter, such as what would a perfect caregiving platform look like for you? What features or services would you be interested in?
It’s time to look at the bright side
Yes, long-distance caregiving is not simple. But we have all made a choice to build a life on another continent, and we all want the best for our families. As an NRI and an experienced startup founder, I have set a goal to resolve the practical hurdles of long-distance support and help all members of the global Indian diaspora including myself. Register with us for future needs or comment below if you wish to be a part of this journey. Every fact or opinion can make a big difference.