For Dhanalakshmi, this is a labour of love. With at least 20 patients under her care currently, the 24-year-old realised that the need for at-home healthcare assistance when the nationwide shutdown took place in 2020. “People were afraid to go to hospitals and needed treatment for their conditions at home. So, it was easier for them to call someone like me, who had the requisite medical training to look after them. Once the pandemic hit the city harder, my family told me to leave my profession due to safety concerns, but this is what I love to do,” she said.
Donning Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and visiting patients across the city at their homes or in government or private hospitals at the request of their families is a daily task for these caretakers. As the number of COVID-19 cases increased in the city, many families found that they were unable to care for their loved ones who were sick, owing to their vulnerabilities or lack of access.
“This is where we step in,” said 30-year-old Arun Kumar. “I’ve gone to several public and private hospitals to help patients, and sometimes I’ve even slept in the corridors outside their rooms during my shift. It’s dangerous and scary but this is essential work too. Doctors are swamped, hospitals are full, and the crisis is worsening in the city. Our work often goes unrecognised because we operate on a one-on-one basis and people think our work is not difficult,” he said.
While putting their job at risk, caretakers call for an increase in compensation for their work, citing poor pay in certain instances. Finally, they also call for other healthcare workers and the general public to acknowledge the work and effort they put in to providing personalised and proper care to their patients. “You need to be patient and positive in this line of work. People need to understand that we are also risking our lives to care for others,” said Arun Kumar.