Being a Full-Time Nurse in Cuba

It’s normal for the daughter to look after her old, sick or bedridden parents, an age-old machista tradition.

By Irina Pino


HAVANA TIMES – It’s been a while since I’ve written anything for Havana Times, some readers might have thought that I had got tired of writing. The thing is, though, that my mother suffered a fracture and I am looking after her around the clock.

When old people suffer accidents at home, they are left with trauma, the effects of which can last months: they stop walking, their legs don’t respond, as their brain sends the wrong signals. They need physiotherapy and psychological help. However, the person who is caring for the patient needs to be in good physical and mental health.

It’s normal for the daughter to look after her elderly, sick or bedridden parents, an age-old machista tradition: women have a greater ability to bear pain, persevere, have greater patience, determination… do we ever run out of that?

This myth has been passed down from generation to generation; the man, the masculine figure is the “provider” in the household.

In my particular situation, my mother’s care has fallen on me because she lives with me and I have to do it. My family sends help from abroad, however, relatives here wriggle out of the matter and don’t commit themselves in a consistent way. They don’t realize that if I don’t feel well, I see it as a kind of punishment.

Therapy for the person who spends most of their time with the convalescent would be to socialize, do other things outside of the home to replace the exhaustion that this leads to.

Dancing, exercise, writing a diary, meditating are all alternative ways to deal with the burden of monotony.

In our country, there is a shortage of institutions for the elderly, many of the existing ones aren’t in the best condition. I know old people with Alzheimers who are being cared for by their own families, under medical supervision.

Nobody knows how hard it is to find someone with the right professional skills, most people who do this work haven’t studied or have the skills required.

Some charge over 80 CUC per month, in a country where tiny pensions and minimum wages are less than 20 CUC.

On the other hand, how do you trust a complete stranger and stick them in your house without a guarantee?

I believe that it’s essential that we look at how we can proceed, and that every member of the family contributes to the sick person’s care.

Irina Pino

Irina Pino: I was born in the middle of shortages in those sixties that marked so many patterns in the world. Although I currently live in Miramar, I miss the city center with its cinemas and theaters, and the bohemian atmosphere of Old Havana, where I often go. Writing is the essential thing in my life, be it poetry, fiction or articles, a communion of ideas that identifies me. With my family and my friends, I get my share of happiness.

3 thoughts on “Being a Full-Time Nurse in Cuba

  • May 1, 2019 at 7:57 am

    Having a lot of sex with either a man or a woman is also a good way to deal with the monotony.

  • April 30, 2019 at 2:36 pm

    All the best, Irina! It is very hard to take care of a close relative almost on your own; and without proper respite. This is a problem that will be greater in Cuba in the next 20 years; unfortunately the systems to provide support are too weak or inexistent. People that care full time for their relatives should have a proper salary at least; as an acknowlegment of their contribution to society.

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