Caring for an Elderly Parent From Abroad

May 7, 2014 4 min

Caring for an elderly parent from abroad requires a solid plan, and constant communication. With these two simple things in place, the task will be easier and the distance will feel less. 

Caring for an elderly parent from abroad

When you’re caring for an elderly parent from abroad, it’s natural to worry about their health and wellbeing. Not being able to pop-in to make sure everything’s ok, to carry out basic maintenance on their home, or to simply catch-up in person can all be a source of guilt and concern. It can be difficult to know exactly how your loved one is coping, as their own reports might be skewed in order to avoid causing worry.

It’s normal for your parents to want you to live your life free from concern, but that’s easier said than done. As they grow older and more frail, it can be hard to avoid a feeling of responsibility for their welfare.

As things progress, the stress of negotiating care with family members and liaising with neighbours and healthcare professionals, can take its toll.

Along with the logistical complications, living at a distance can make it difficult to know how much responsibility to take. How involved or proactive should you be? Would you forgive yourself if something bad happened and you could otherwise have intervened? This kind of anxiety is known as ‘expat guilt’. So what can you do to alleviate some of the stress that arises when leaving elderly parents behind?

Talk now, not later

Talk to your parents while they are still healthy. If  you are moving away from elderly parents, discuss their wishes for the future, and gently broach different scenarios. Would they consider downsizing their house? How do they feel about a retirement village? What do they want to happen if they become sick or too frail to cope independently?

Remember that parents often put on a brave face for their children, so trust your observations when you visit. Is the house being maintained? What about their physical health, mental state and self-care? The sooner problems are addressed and treated, the easier they are to eliminate and monitor.

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Always plan for the scenario that your parents will need support in the future

Demographic data show that 75% of us will need care in later life. When you’re caring from overseas, it is  vital to build up a network of people who can help in the case of any change in circumstances.

Contact friends, family and neighbours, and keep a record of their contact details. Try to make definite plans about who will be responsible for tasks in the event that they are necessary.

When you have developed a solid plan for the future, taking into account your parent`s wishes, then it`s time to investigate what services will be available to them. Look into their local NHS, Social Services, voluntary and private sector companies who could help with care, meals on wheels, and companionship options.

If they have retired abroad

If you are living in your home country and it`s your parents who have moved abroad to retire, the healthcare system of the country they’re living in can prove difficult to navigate, especially if you don`t speak the language.

Ensure your parents have joined any expat networks in their area and have registered with the local consulate in case of a change in circumstances.

Take care of yourself

When you have elderly parents and are caring from a distance, you can feel considerable guilt about the circumstances you have chosen for yourself. But by putting a plan in place, you can rest assured that you are doing everything in your power to support them. Talking to family and friends ahead of time will take away from the anxiety of calling on them at short notice. You’ll know that they’re prepared and happy to help, and that will help you.

In the meantime, try talking to friends about their experiences. They might have knowledge and advice you haven’t thought about, or may be going through a similar situation themselves and be able to offer moral support. It’s becoming more and more common for families to be spread far and wide. It might be that opportunities for overseas work have arisen, and an uncertain economic climate has made it difficult to refuse a chance for higher pay. Or it might be that an improvement in lifestyle can be achieved by an overseas move. Whatever your reasons, you are not alone.

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Professional care

Considering a professional carer can give you the peace of mind you need. A Personal Assistant Carer can provide help with regular tasks around the house, like cooking, cleaning, gardening, and simply providing company for a couple of hours. Companionship care is specifically assigned to avoid loneliness in an elderly person who might otherwise go days without seeing or speaking to another person.

Trusted eyes and ears on the ground will help you to stay informed about the reality of your parent’s health and wellbeing so you will know when different measures need to be put in place.

There are many ways to access care, and HomeTouch is one of them. We can match your requirements with a private carer near to where your parent lives. You can choose from the profiles of carers who match your search, and search results are determined by qualifications, experience, specialities, personality and interests. The relationship between your parents and whoever provides care in your absence needs to be trusting, and at HomeTouch we understand the importance of this. Founded by an NHS dementia doctor, and built by people with hands-on care experience, we aim to provide a better care service, at a better price.

Dr Jamie WilsonFounder and Chief Medical Officer at Hometouch

Dr Jamie Wilson is hometouch’s founder and Chief Medical Officer. Jamie’s creation of hometouch was inspired by his work as a dementia psychiatrist in the NHS, and he has written about healthcare issues in The Times and the Evening Standard. Jamie has a MBBS from the University of Leeds and has spent a decade in the NHS, working as a Psychiatric Registrar and Memory Specialist at Imperial College Hospital.

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