Thursday, July 09, 2009

Growing old overseas

Yes, I accept this isn’t the most attractive looking title I’ve ever come up with and it doesn’t suggest there are barrels of belly laughs to follow. Even so, it is though a real issue and one that many expats may need to face at some time in their lives.

Quite a few expats have moved overseas and burned their boats in the process. That’s brave, admirable and probably not cause for concern if one’s 20, 30, 40, 50 or even in one’s 60s. The trouble is, time passes and we all age. As we get older we may need more help and attention.

There are of course two real aspects to this.

The first is to ensure that you have appropriate health cover and retirement benefits in place. It’s worth remembering that having health insurance isn’t necessarily the same thing as having ‘care cover’ for old age related situations. Check to see what benefits and cover may be available from the local social security and health services, if you are part of them. If you’re not, you should check to see what services may be available to you locally if you are on an ‘E’ form type of reciprocal cover.

The second is that of familiarity, culture and language. If an elderly person is living in an English speaking culture and needs to go into hospital for treatment or needs care and help, then that may not be a major issue. It could though be far more problematic if the person concerned is living in a non-English speaking country and could be surrounded by health or care professionals they cannot understand and who cannot understand them.

I know of one case where an elderly member of an expat family had to go for a week’s observation and specialist convalescence after minor surgery. Although the care was superb and the staff stunningly friendly, in fact few of them spoke any English at all. Although his family did all they could, they clearly could not stay with him 24x7 and during that week of being surrounded by people he couldn’t understand, the elderly gentleman became mentally very confused though he was normally quite sharp.

Fortunately at the end of the week he returned home and rapidly recovered his awareness and mental sharpness but it did illustrate the potential problems of becoming old in a foreign land.

I have no easy answer to this one but it’s worth keeping in mind – particularly if you’re thinking of bringing elderly relatives to come and live with you overseas.

1 comment:

Miss Footloose said...

This is an important issue. Not just for people bringing elderly relatives to live with them overseas, but for expats who are getting older themselves and have found their place in the sun in a foreign country.

The location may be great, the care excellent, the language not a problem, but what about the family support system? Children will often not live in the same foreign country, but have their families back in the home land. Popping over to help Mom or Dad recuperate from an ailment or medical trauma in a foreign country is not the easiest thing to organize. Or may not be possible at all.

Getting older is not easy in the best of circumstance as many of us know from watching parents and grandparents age. How to do that well and with good support is a practical as well as emotional question we must carefully consider as expats living overseas.

Okay, you said that already ... ;-)


Miss Footloose, healthy expat