Relocating With (Or Without) A Senior Parent

As many countries’ populations age, an increasing number of adults find themselves caring for a parent. Medical advancements and attention to healthful living have led to longer life expectancy. Often this means senior citizens are enjoying an active, healthy lifestyle longer. But many seniors do depend on a family member for at least some support.

What happens when that family member – a grown child – plans to move abroad?

Expatriates face many questions in these scenarios: Should I arrange for in-home care? What to do in an emergency? What if my senior parent declines into a worsened condition? What’s the best way to stay informed about my parent’s health status? Is he/she fit enough to make the move with us?

Here are some thoughts to guide you:

Discuss and plan

-Talk directly to the doctor of an senior parent about his/her condition and future needs.

-Discuss responsibilities with siblings.

-Engage with your parent about their care.

-Identify friends/neighbors who may be called upon in an emergency.

-Keep phone numbers for all parties, including doctors, lawyers, and pharmacies.

Talk to your employer

-Discuss with HR how company policies and benefits might support your anticipated needs.

-Help your immediate staff be ready to manage should you have to travel home on short notice.

-Understand host-country laws regarding short-term leave and dependent care. If local workers comprise your staff, be sensitive to widely ranging attitudes and levels of state assistance in caring for senior parents.

Stay connected while abroad

– Schedule periodic phone or Skype calls to parents, their caregivers, and/or siblings.

– Suggest they keep a journal or list of any issues you should know about that occur between calls.

– If possible, talk to people in direct contact with your parents, setting up communication about any changes or new complications which your parent may be reluctant to share with you.

Consider whether they should accompany you

-If your parent already lives with you, making him/her a part of your home abroad may be a foregone conclusion. Consider the physical layout and space options while looking for host-country accommodations.

– Your family may consider a senior parent who is in good health a welcome addition to your experience abroad, again taking into account space, family dynamics, and available host-country activities.

– Investigate the host country’s support for seniors — in physical environment, medical access, and recreational opportunities, as well as cultural norms that can affect quality of life.

– Find out what travel documentation your host country requires, and include your parent in the process of obtaining visas for your family

Selected Resources
HelpAge International

Canada: Resources for Seniors

India: National Programme for Health Care of the Elderly

Sweden: Elderly Care in Sweden

United Kingdom: AgeUK

United States:
AARP (American Association of Retired People)
Eldercare Locator

Written by Ellen Harris, GMS, International Product Director, Living Abroad