Career opportunities take individuals and their families away from their home country. Their focus is on the new job and adjusting to life in another country. In most cases parents have encouraged their child to take advantage of the unique opportunity to work and live in a foreign land. Expats quickly learn that life in another country is exciting but also more complicated. They have a new life to build and challenges to handle, so less thought is given to their relatives back home. It isn’t that they don’t care; it is simply a matter of human nature that if someone or something is absent, it is overlooked.
Today most pensioners are leading active lives so we don’t have to worry about them. However, a relative’s health status can change suddenly and dramatically. When we live on the other side of the world we feel helpless. Caring for your loved ones from a distance is a multi-faceted issue and there isn’t one right answer. Expats dealing with a frail or ill loved one from a distance commented that they were managing, although each described unexpected challenges, frustrations and a desire to have known more in advance. The families are juggling multiple issues including guilt, resentment by other family members, time differences, added costs, cultural traditions, legal issues, and misunderstandings.
Here are five suggestions to consider:
- 1. Use technology to stay in touch with your loved ones, your family and those involved with the care. Technology gives you the opportunity to have an active role in the ongoing activities and decision process.
- 2. Create an emergency plan including a special fund. Put resources in place such as child care so that you can react quickly. The emergency fund will help to reduce the financial burden of unexpected family expenses.
- 3. Whenever possible have open, honest conversations with your siblings and aging loved ones so that everyone has the same expectations and it will minimize misunderstandings.
- 4. Look for creative ways to stay in touch and involved with the family. This can help lessen your feelings of guilt for being so far away.
- 5. Honor cultural differences including how people want to be cared for and how you can best honor them when they pass away.
Being prepared, having information, making a plan and opening dialog with their relatives will mean less scrambling when their loved ones need assistance. Being prepared for the ‘what if’ related to our aging relatives can give us peace of mind.
Contributed by Elizabeth Vennekens-Kelly, an intercultural trainer, consultant and author. Elizabeth helps individuals to be prepared for their expat assignments and she encourages assignees to exam all aspects of expat life so they have realistic expectations. Elizabeth combines her familiarity of expat living and intercultural knowledge to help people to develop the knowledge and skills to be successful in multicultural situations. She is a member of various organizations: VOKA, VIW, FAWCO, SIETAR and FIGT.
THis article was originally published on Expat Nest in January 2015: http://www.expatnest.com/caring-ageing-loved-ones-distance/