Leaving your family behind can be one of the hardest parts of living abroad, especially if you have aging parents who wish they could see you and their grandkids more. What can be even more daunting is when your parent’s health is starting to deteriorate, and you recognize they need your help more and more.
So how do we live abroad and avoid the guilt of leaving our aging parents behind?
Well, there are several things that are important:
It’s integral to set up a system to communicate with them regularly. If they are not good with technology, make sure you set it up with them. Take the time to show them how it works. Also, consider asking a family member or a friend to sit with them and assist them make a weekly call with you. It’s better to have someone tech-savvy nearby should your parents run into issues.
My Dad went three months without a computer until I could get there to help. Until then, he missed seeing me and
his grandson. I found a technician who could help him out regularly when he gets confused or frustrated. It makes me feel more at ease when I can see him and what’s really going on in his environment, because they won’t always tell you when something is wrong.
They can also feel isolated and lonely, so the more you can communicate with them, the better. Bring them along with you live on camera to lunch, dinner or a hangout with grandkids over Skype. You can share precious moments and quality time over the internet so they feel included in your life.
Know their doctor and make sure the doctor knows you:
So you can make appointments for your parents if needed. Know which meds they’re taking and exactly what protocols they should follow if they have health problems. Also, keep addresses and phone numbers of local doctors and hospitals nearby.
So you can book an Uber or taxi to take them back and forth to appointments if necessary. This is super important in case of an emergency so you are not running around frantically trying to find this information. Being prepared will lower stress levels and give you confidence knowing your aging parents can get care when they need it.
Build a buddy system:
Organize this system in advance with family and friends who are available if you need help. These people should be available to take your parents to the doctor, cook a meal, pay a visit or help around the house. They keep you informed of your parent’s wellbeing. If you let people know where you need help, they are typically willing to help you. Making agreements beforehand prevents feelings of burden when issues arise.
Plan your visit and set money and time aside to see your parents on a time frame they can count on. This will keep everyone’s expectations in check. It also gives you time to organize events so everyone feels secure and grounded.
If you don’t have time or money to visit them, have them come and stay with you:
They can usually stay longer, and even if they have health issues, you can organize care for them on the plane as well as organize a doctor to help where you are located. Just make sure you have their important medical information with you and arrange health coverage during their travel.
Organize and scan important documents:
There are a lot of things we can handle at a distance but we have to have the right documents.
• Birth certificates
• Marriage certificates
• Medical proxy
• Medical insurance
• Funeral instructions
• Medical records
• Letter of consent (power of attorney) to be their legal guardian in case of emergency
Unfortunately for me, my sister passed away very suddenly, but I was able to prepare everything online because of family doctors and having the right paperwork.
Take it easy on yourself:
It won’t help to feel bad and beat yourself up for moving away. It is better to focus on the things you can do rather than the things you can’t. Use that energy to build a contingency plan for your parents. Most importantly, invest in the bond. Just because you’re far away doesn’t mean you can’t stay connected in a meaningful way.
About the author:
Mundey Young is an international lifestyle and business coach. She specializes in helping expats create their dream lives from anywhere in the world. After her military service in the U.S. Air Force, Mundey became an expatriate for the first time, relocating to Cambridge, England. She has lived in Paris, but now lives in Marseilles.
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