Caring From a Distance: When Leaving the Country Means Leaving Loved Ones Behind

Time was, when members of an extended family would be likely to live within the same community, close by to one another – even under the same roof, so that one generation could share the responsibility of caring for another. Today though, while this structure remains the norm in some parts of the world, in Western culture, it has largely become a thing of the past, a consequence of greater mobility, and fewer factors restricting where we have to work or live. As general mobility has become global mobility, the potential for families to be divided by cultures, not just miles, has become reality.

Today, following a career path is increasingly likely to mean leaving aging parents or other elderly relatives behind, and this is a topic being addressed at an upcoming event called ‘Caring From a Distance’, hosted by the group which I co-chair – Families in Global Transition UK (FIGT UK) in November (details at the end of this blog post). One of the event presenters will be Alison Hesketh of TimeFinders, an organisation which provides practical, professional support to older people and their families; we asked Alison to share her top tips for expats finding themselves having to leave elderly parents at home while they are based overseas:

  • Sit down & discuss things with your parents

Even if your parents are fit and healthy, before you leave make sure you have that difficult conversation with them about their future.  Planning ahead can help ensure your parents remain independent for as long as possible.

  • Organise Power of Attorney

Strongly encourage your parents to make and have registered Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA) for both Health and Welfare and Finance and Property Affairs.

  • Collate contact details for friends & neighbours

Have the contact details of your parents’ closest friends and neighbours just in case you can’t get in touch with them, or become worried about them. Ask your parents’ permission first.

  • Message in a bottle

‘Message in a bottle’ is a scheme run by The Lions encouraging the elderly to keep emergency information in a little plastic bottle in the fridge door for the emergency services.

  • Contact your parents’ GP

With your parents’ permission, talk to their GP. Let them know you are going abroad, and give them your emergency contact information.

  • Identify sources of help before you leave

Identify key sources of help such as domiciliary care agencies before you go, so that you are prepared if need be. A little extra help can prevent a manageable situation deteriorating into a crisis.

If you think it might be necessary for a parent to go into care while you’re away, take time to research and visit local care homes.

  • Liaise with your siblings

If you have siblings, discuss contingency plans with them and what support they are going to need should your parents require help.

  • Get your parents online!

It’s never been easier to keep in touch. If they’re not already, get your parents online and familiar with the basics of a tablet, so you can contact each other via email and Skype. The intuitive nature of iPads and similar devices make them easy for anyone to use, and as well as a communication tool, they will potentially open up a new world of interest.

Taking a bit of time now to plan ahead will help to avoid many of the problems that expat children face when their parents need help back in the UK.   Always remember that there’s a fine balance to be struck between supporting your parents and taking over – it’s important for elderly people to remain independent and in control of the decisions which affect them. If you’d like to know more about this topic, come along to the FIGT UK free event, and hear Alison and other experts in the field of elder care give you the benefit of their experience.

Caring From a Distance

When: 7th November 2014 – click here to book your free place at this event!

Where: Signature Care Home, Cliveden Manor, 210 Little Marlow Road, Marlow, Bucks SL7 1HX

Cost: Free

Organiser: Families in Global Transition UK (FIGT UK)

Click here to book your place

For more information on TimeFinders, go to

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