Cares for her husband and cared for her mother

Age at interview: 72
Age at start of caregiving: 42

Madhu (72 years old) lives with her husband and other family members and has three grown children. Madhu has cared for her husband since he had a heart attack 29 years ago and he has recently undergone bypass surgery. Madhu’s mother had a chronic stomach condition that required surgery at two different times but she passed away following complications from the second operation. Madhu has had to make important work and lifestyle changes in order to adapt to her husband’s illness. She is now retired from her work as a real-estate manager but an active volunteer in multiple cultural organizations to help immigrants with their new life in Canada.

When Madhu was 42 years old her husband suffered a heart attack. At that time she was in charge of running her household, including the raising of their two teenage children. After three weeks Madhu’s husband was discharged from the hospital and advised to make lifestyle changes such as adopting a healthier diet and increasing his physical activities. Madhu was advised not to share any worrisome news with her husband. This advice changed her life radically: She was no longer able to share everything with her husband and, on top of that, she had to learn to live with increased levels of anxiety and responsibility.

Eight years later, Madhu’s mother underwent surgery for a blockage in her stomach. Her mother, who lived with the couple, did not speak English and was strictly vegetarian. Because of the language issue, Madhu spent a great deal of time at the hospital helping to facilitate communication between her mother and healthcare professionals. At the same time she also had to be home with the children and her husband and prepare vegetarian food for her mother at the hospital. This was a difficult period and Madhu was pleased to have her sister-in-law come over to support the family and share the work. In the four year period following this surgery, Madhu and her mother tried to find a balance between Madhu’s efforts to help with her care  and her mother’s efforts to do things herself.  Madhu’s mother passed away following a second surgery for similar medical problems. Madhu still regrets not having spent more time with her mother during her illness even though she had limited her own activities to accommodate time to provide care for her mother and husband.

Madhu is pleased with the medical care that her family has received in Canada and feels fortunate to be in a part of the world where she receives good care. As a child, she had fled Pakistan with her mother at times of partition and became refugee in India. After finishing schooling Madhu immigrated to Canada and got married and now has three children. In spite of the good medical care she has received, she has experienced periods of feeling isolated, missing the moral and community support that existed in India. Madhu increasingly worries about the limited availability of adapted healthcare services for people with another cultural background now that she is aging.

Madhu wishes that there were more opportunities for immigrants with a medical background to work or volunteer in the Canadian healthcare system. This way, medical professionals from India would get the chance to get to know the Canadian healthcare system and, at the same time, healthcare professionals would learn more about cultural issues with regards to providing medical care for particular ethnic and immigrant groups. Madhu values the Canadian healthcare system and makes great efforts to improve it, contributing to improving other people’s situations is her own way to give back to society.


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