A Case Study in Transnational Elder Care: Pooja’s Indian Grandfather

My former student Pooja Bhandari has been corresponding with me about her future in public health and her experiences with her Indian immigrant grandfather in a nursing home. The story was so fascinating, highlighting the changing costs and contexts of care in a transnational world,  I asked her to be guest blogger on this topic. Please feel free to comment or share stories for Pooja and her family!

Here’s what she writes:

I went to visit my grandfather at a nursing home in New Jersey last weekend. He recently suffered a
stroke and after he was discharged from the hospital he was admitted into a nursing home in Edison,
NJ. I noticed in his room was a sign for a newly hired “Indian Coordinator,” in charge of coordinating
activities for the Indian population. Later my mom took me to the second floor, the “Indian Floor,”
where there was a Hindu temple and a calendar of Indian-centered activities and events. The calendar
listed a celebration in honor of Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights, on October 26! I shouldn’t have been
surprised, though, as more than a quarter of the people living in Edison, NJ are of Indian decent.

Sad as it is to think of, it was probably the last time I’ll see him. He now needs round-the-clock care and
my grandmother, his wife of nearly 70 years, is taking him back to India today, despite having lived in
the United States for over 25 years. Truth is, it is easier and less expensive to hire someone to be with
my grandfather 24/7 in India. My aunt, their only child in India, has arranged for someone (not a medical
professional) to come from a near-by village to take of my grandfather’s everyday needs and for one
month will be paying him less than it would cost in NJ for 2 days. Also, my grandmother doesn’t speak
English well and now she will be able to communicate with his caregiver without the help of a translator.
And, knowing my grandmother, she’s likely to tell him exactly what to do to take care of her 93-year-old
husband!

-Pooja Bhandari, Colgate Alum 2007

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Meika Loe

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