94.3 Radio One – Hrishi K, Conversation on Caregiving with Bhavana Issar (Founder, Caregiver Saathi)

“Many caregivers are very strong, however, in the process they become hardened and numb to their own needs…”

Caregiver Saathi was founded after Bhavana’s father’s death when she realized, how the caregiver’s well-being is affected when dealing with a terminal condition of a loved one. She emphasizes why caregiving must be valued and appreciated in our society. Caregivers, are expected to be strong and in reality most of them don’t have a support system. On the difference between palliative care and Caregiver Saathi support – unlike most healthcare organizations that focus on only the needs of patients, Caregiver Saathi focuses on the caregiver and their well-being to support the patient. ( 0.00- 2.50)

Elements of Well-Being and Stages of Caregiving (2:50-12:45)

She discusses the different elements of well-being and their interdependance. For the healing and a sense of well-being of the patient, the caregiver needs a good quality of life.  The role of caregiving usually comes unannounced and with its own set of challenges. Talking about three different stages of caregiving, she talks of how the Initial stage includes the primary tasks of collecting information and setting up the “care” environment. During the On-going stage, the caregiver feels the need for support from a professional or from someone who has faced a similar life situation for skills, empathy etc. In India, in the last stage End-of-life care talk is often avoided but handling it well is the most important part of the Bereavement stage.   While sharing her own journey as a caregiver, she acknowledges how caregivers give up their personal life to fulfill their caregiving responsibilities. Most (60-80%) of caregivers are women, across the world. The challenge with cultural stereotypes is the fact that men are expected to never stop being the ‘provider’ and how women end up being the caregiver of the family.

“Caregiving is a lot about human touch… There is no substitute… to my holding a hand versus swiping on a smartphone… Not the same!” 

Technology and the Human Touch (12:46 -16:08)

One of to the tools for enabling and empowering caregivers, the Caregiver Saathi App and its features are also discussed in detail. The app addresses the primary needs of caregivers and helps them manage and organize their tasks and schedules besides others. These enable time for themselves to rejuvenate by assigning tasks to their friends or family. She also emphasizes that though technology has been a boon to our generation, it can never replace the connection built through human touch.

Caregiver Mindset and Rehabilitation (16.20-25.17)

While conducting support group meetings at Caregiver Saathi, caregiver attendance for sessions on their own well-being was poorer than when the meetings are focused on the specific conditions of the care-receiver! She acknowledges the value of a well-wisher’s role in the life of caregivers and also calls out for volunteers who can help in various ways as support for the Gentle Warriors (Caregivers) around us.  Bhavana also touches on the vision for the rehabilitation and engagement for leveraging experience and knowledge of erstwhile Caregivers through a volunteer program. Sadly, the importance and need for rehabilitation after the end of a traumatic caregiving journey is misunderstood and though critical, is currently poorly addressed by our socio-cultural mileu.

To hear the full interview click here, https://m.soundcloud.com/hrishikay/hrishi-k-with-bhavana-issar-caregiver-saathi

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