A somewhat bizarre story out of Europe is leading a few elder care experts in the United States to question whether “shipping away” seniors may be part of the future of long-term care for some families.
As reported by the BBC, one adult daughter in Switzerland ignited an ethical debate recently by deciding to send her mother to a long-term care home in Thailand for support. The daughter explained that her decision was based on both her mother’s specific condition and financial realities. The 91-year old mother apparently suffers from severe dementia, and is unable to remember much of anything about the present. In addition, the cost of care in Switzerland was incredibly high–similar to that in New York–while Thai care was far more affordable. The daughter felt that her mother could receive better services in Thailand where she now lives with a group of other Swiss and German seniors.
A Wave of the Future?
Understandably, many are taken aback by this approach; sending a senior abroad obviously greatly minimizes the ability for frequent visits. And using any form of the reasoning that “they have dementia and won’t notice anyway” seems shockingly callous, particularly when used by friends and family.
Then again, those more sympathetic to this approach argue that not all situations are alike, and many seniors may be better off with the options abroad. Beyond the general cost savings, the quality of senior care in certain areas may be far better. Seniors in the U.S. are often ravaged by poor care filled with abuse and neglect, but such mistreatment is far less common in different cultures, including Thailand. In addition, some argue that with a huge wave of seniors in need on the horizon (including many with advanced cognitive problems), every option should be left on the table.
Still, the majority of elder care advocates argue that sending a senior overseas for care is very rarely a prudent option. Connection to friends, family, and familiar surroundings is a hallmark of aging in peace. As a former nurse explained in a Forbes article arguing against this option, “The common ground among all of them (seniors) was the need for loving vigilance by family over what happened to them as they moved through the last phases of their lives. I would not want to give up that responsibility to caregivers so far away that I would rarely have a chance to see my loved one.”
As always, the prudent step to ensure elder care decisions are not forced by limited options or financial resources, is to plan ahead of time for the possible need. Visit with a New York elder law attorney today to ensure you are doing everything you can now to account for the uncertain future.