Tour of Duty

Cassandra Salahuddin


I could say I have been an essential worker for most of my working career, so when the COVID-19 pandemic started, I was already prepared mentally, physically and spiritually. I am an Army veteran with two war-zone experiences under my belt.

I was working as a cook in a memory care assisted living facility, and my mother just recently had a major health crisis. This crisis required her to be placed in a facility or, we as a family, had the choice to bring her home; her circumstances were very bleak. We decided to honor her wish to bring her home, so she could be in a familiar environment with her loved ones when she made her transition. My job experience prepared me for the health home care she required, including the necessary lifestyle changes implemented because of the pandemic.

My challenge during this time was having to continue to work in a possibly dangerous environment and maintain my safety and health. It was devastating to see so many people dying, having had to walk away from their sources of income, while I was considered an essential worker. Because of my military background, I braced myself for this long tour of duty.

I continuously felt this heavy burden of responsibility because I did not want to be the carrier of this virus into my mother’s home with whom I was living and caring for at the time. The household was already under its own set of stressors. My brother and youngest daughter Khemi, along with me and my mother, lived under one roof. I had to develop a schedule that included my oldest daughter Imani so my mother would have 24/7 home care. It was a daunting task.

At work, we were required to wear masks, record our temperatures upon arrival and before leaving to go home.
We were constantly understaffed in the memory care unit, which required more work effort on my part to assist with helping with the residents. The effect of not being able to have family and friends visit took a toll on them – really on all of us. This isolation caused the residents to cling more to us as their family because we were there for them 24/7. My job responsibilities mirrored what I was doing for my own mother. I understood that it was a difficult blessing that I was receiving. I was in the best position to give what was necessary to help my mother.

I had all of the skill sets to address the current circumstances. In January 2020, I began my yoga teacher training that quickly went from in-person training to virtual classes. Everything I learned during that time I was able to apply to myself in terms of self-care. I was able to breathe, focus, meditate through all of the obstacles I encountered.

Instead of being irritated that I had to be tested every two weeks on my job, I began to view it as a positive preventative measure to help ensure my safety with my mother as well as others I came into contact with. I chose to feel honored and not bitter that I had a huge responsibility with the care of my mother; it made me more compassionate, understanding and accepting. The position of being an essential worker helped me to view what really matters in a positive light, a light I was able to radiate from within and share with others.

Author Bio

Cassandra Salahuddin is a U.S. Army veteran who served in Somalia and Iraq and is a proud parent of three amazing adults, Imani, Malik and Khemi. As a plant-based personal chef and certified yoga teacher, Cassandra enjoys helping others and sharing her own experiences. She is also currently a caregiver for her mother and daughter. Her work experiences from the Army and Danbury Senior Living have given her the proper tools to be attentive, patient and kind to those in her care, while maintaining her own self-care along the way.

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