Battling Covid-19 abroad: Kenyan caregiver’s plight

Indian health officers have put a big sticker on Atieno’s door alerting everyone that she is a Covid-19 patient.

Photo credit: Leon Lidigu | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Atieno says she has a lot to worry about but being with her parents in India gives her some comfort.
  • Dr Morrison says without enough self-care or support, they begin to burn out from the stress.

She flew to India in February to take care of her ailing parents seeking specialised treatment but can’t accompany them back home.

Although the family was happy to be returning home, and they had booked a flight, the 38-year-old caregiver has been barred from flying after testing positive for the novel coronavirus. 

This comes just a few weeks after Kenya’s ambassador to India, Willy Bett, confirmed that Kenya Airways was making arrangements to repatriate Kenyans stuck in India due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I had a sore throat, started feeling dizzy last week on Friday and almost collapsed while going shopping,” said the lady who sought anonymity but whom we will call Atieno.

She told the Nation she arrived in India in February to care for her ageing parents who have been admitted since November 2019.

“My mom came for an operation to have nerve discs inserted in her hand while dad is battling leukemia,” she said.

Atieno says she has a lot to worry about but being with her parents in India gives her some comfort.

Lost business deals

“I have lost jobs and business deals because I am away, my child had just joined Form One when I left and I miss her so much,” she

 The Nation has since learnt they all tested negative for the virus.

“Indian health officers have put a big sticker on my door alerting everyone that I am a Covid-19 patient.”

Dr David Morrison, an award-winning psychologist specialising in mental health and wellbeing in Glasgow, Scotland, told the Nation that in a situation like this, caregivers feel like they’ve let down both their parents and children.

“Often they tire themselves out by going back over past decisions and thinking about what they could have done differently. They begin to unfairly beat themselves up for all the ‘mistakes’ they think they’ve made. ”

He also cautions caregivers not to forget themselves.

“The pandemic has meant that our healthcare professionals don’t have enough time and resources to take care of non-Covid cases. This means that many people have been forced into roles as caregivers for family and friends who are ill or at high-risk from the virus. ”

Dr Morrison says without enough self-care or support, they begin to burn out from the stress.

“When this happens, the caregiver usually feels tired most of the time and loses their appetite. They may become moody and take their frustrations out on others, including the loved one they’re caring for.

“Sometimes we see the opposite effect and the caregiver feels nothing at all — just a numbness. After a while, they can begin to feel trapped and hopeless about the future,” Dr Morrison explains.

 Ms Juliet Mureithi, a psychologist and managing director at Africa Retreat Centre in Kampala, Uganda, agrees with Dr Morrison.

She told the Nation that self-care is what matters most at this point, adding that because Atieno seems to be the one taking care of everyone else, she now has to prioritise her health. “At least one out of 24 hours apart from the eight hours of sleep should be for yourself.”

Ms Mureithi added that being a caregiver is addictive and those that do not take good care of themselves risk depression and the signs include a slide into alcoholism,prescription drug abuse ,increased libido or lack of interest in sex , irritability, the thought of delegation of the duties does not go well with the victim and anxiety disorders .


The Nation also established that Indian health authorities call in daily to check up Atieno.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines on measures to be adopted before embarkation during repatriation, governments are advised to delay the travel of any suspected ill travellers and refer them for further evaluation and treatment.

WHO states that foreigners who test positive for Covid become the responsibility of the government of the host country.  “I am in isolation and on paracetamols to ease the headaches and fever,” says Atieno, adding that she eats fruits like papaya and oranges. “I go for those rich in Vitamin C, loads of water and also inhale Vicks vaporub.”