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Old 05.06.2019, 00:31
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Leaving parents behind

Hi all,

We are a family of four (with two kids aged 4 and 1) from the US, considering a long-term move to French Switzerland. We have a great job opportunity in Switzerland, but also an equally good opportunity in the US.

We love adventure as a family, and we have also lived in Switzerland in the past and loved it. Without any other factors to consider, we would be leaning towards Switzerland. But one problem is that my wife is an only child and her parents are in the US (not in the same state but a short plane ride away). They are in good health now but are both pushing 70, and don't have much of a social network. We are racked with anxiety about how hard it would be to be on a different continent as they age.

Is anyone else here in a similar situation? If so, how do you manage long distance elder care? Might it make sense to kick this particular can down the road for now and just move to Switzerland, or would we come to regret it?
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Old 05.06.2019, 08:13
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Re: Leaving parents behind

I deal with it every day, and my parents are only 3000km away.

It's a difficult decision and there is no magical answer. Either you take the chance and have to consider external help (caretaker or elderly home if things come to worse) or a sudden collapse of your life in Switzerland, or you stay were you are.

Being non-EU, you'll find the chances to bring elderly sick parents to Switzerland is almost null.
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Old 05.06.2019, 08:56
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Re: Leaving parents behind

Parents have had their whole life to make their own choices. They have chosen a non social lifestyle. We all need to bear the consequences of our own choices also when we are older.

It sounds like you really want to come to Switzerland so go for it, I would say.
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Old 05.06.2019, 09:04
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Re: Leaving parents behind

My husband (also an only child) and have I spent the better part of 15 years (and counting) trying to juggle eldercare responsibilities across the pond.

If I could turn back the clock, knowing now what I didn't know then, I would not have moved to Switzerland. Juggling is always a catch-up game; all that effort and everyone, on both sides, still feels let down.

My 5Rp, with the benefit of hindsight: If you make the move, have a back-up plan for one of you to return to the US for a prolonged stay(s) if needed. Consider what that means to permits (and consequences should naturalisation be a goal), child care here, effect on career, sourcing difficult to find services in Switzerland to take up the slack when one of you is gone. I wish we could have done that - but we seemed to always be in reactive mode.

---

Balancing our responsibilities on both sides of the pond has been exhausting, stressful, horrifically expensive... and it has meant that we have been unable to take advantage of our time here. We live here, but our lives, by default, had to be there. For the worst of the time, when we were in a critical situation with 3 of the 4 parents simultaneously, every free moment had to be spent in the US.

As you can imagine, traveling to the US every couple weeks for years on end takes quite a bite out of one's savings. But the not-so-small fortune spent pales in comparison to the emotional toll.

---

How did we do it?

You need local eyes on the situation.

Organise as many resources as you can in your parent's hometown. Interview agencies, set up contingencies, try to build a network, family friends as well as professionals, who can be first responders in a crisis. Remember, at best you can be there in 24 hours - but more often than not it will be 48.

Try to encourage the parents to hire services, now, that you would normally provide - errands, yard work, handyman stuff. If they cannot afford to do so - or simply do not want to spend the money - offer to pay for it yourself, an investment in peace of mind. Get to know everyone who provides services to your parents personally, and keep in touch with those people.

If your parents are church people, speak with the church outreach staff. Ask what help the church can provide. Many churches offer a variety of senior services.

Keep on your parents' neighbours' good side. (Swiss chocolate helps.) If a neighbour is willing to simply keep an eye out and let you know if something doesn't seem right, that is a godsend. We were blessed with lovely neighbours - one stopped on his way to work to bring the paper from the end of the driveway to the door (a chance to quickly see if the ILs were OK each day), another often popped by for coffee, a third just 'happened' to meet FIL on his walks around the neighbourhood. The advantages of living in a small town in the cornfields of Hoosierland.

Be cognisant of your parent's pride; no one wants to feel beholden, especially those of our parent's generation. Try to keep the stress the situation puts on you away from your folks as best you can. Tough to do, I know - but in the long run it will help your folks accept the help they - and you - need if they do not feel like they are a burden.

Collect information about available options should your parents no longer be able to live in their home. You need this information in your back pocket - because the last thing you need in a crisis is to be scrambling around when you need an immediate solution.

Obviously the best solution is for parents to do this themselves, make their own choices an decisions - but sometimes this is a step - or even a conversation - that is too difficult to have. So you need to do some of this 'in the background'.

Visit all area assisted living, nursing care, memory care options yourself, get to know the management and staff, well ahead of time. Find out which are well run, which should be avoided. Find out well ahead of time what availability there is, what entry procedures are. If the good ones require a deposit to get on a waiting list, consider doing so. Think if it as insurance, just in case.

Keep a bag packed so that in an emergency you just grab the suitcase and catch the next flight.

Finances are important - plan for the regular visits, and keep building savings for those difficult years, when you have to buy a lot of last minute tickets.

Finally - communication is key. Too often the consequences of ageing, illness, dying becomes the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about. Even if you lived next door these would be very difficult conversations. An ocean apart makes it all the more difficult but it is critical to keep discussions going as to what your parents need, what you can reasonably provide from afar, and how to manage the gaps in-between.

---

Not an easy row to hoe. I wish you and your parents all the very best.
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Old 05.06.2019, 09:50
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Re: Leaving parents behind

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my wife is an only child and her parents are in the US (not in the same state but a short plane ride away). They are in good health now but are both pushing 70, and don't have much of a social network. We are racked with anxiety about how hard it would be to be on a different continent as they age.
What do your wife's parents have to say about it?
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Old 05.06.2019, 12:01
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Re: Leaving parents behind

As Helm said. You won't get a permit to bring them here. Nothing is impossible but ...
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Old 05.06.2019, 12:41
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Re: Leaving parents behind

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How did we do it?

You need local eyes on the situation.
Meloncollie has (as usual) given a very thoughtful 5Rp.

However, as your family are anyway "a short plane ride" away, you already have the problem of getting local eyes on the situation. Of course, living in the same time zone and cheaper flights are different from trans-continental worries.

But still, whether you stay in US or come to Switzerland, it seems that you will be confronted with this at some point.

Or maybe not. 70 y.o. can be healthy for many years yet....or decide to sail round the world, set up a tent in remote xxx-land and never be seen again
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Old 05.06.2019, 17:35
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Re: Leaving parents behind

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Or maybe not. 70 y.o. can be healthy for many years yet....or decide to sail round the world, set up a tent in remote xxx-land and never be seen again

My parents are now both in their 80s but fortunately still quite healthy. Maybe ask them what they want?


BTW kicking the can down the road means to continue to ponder over something.
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Old 05.06.2019, 17:44
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Re: Leaving parents behind

Thank you so much for this very helpful post, @meloncollie! And thank you to everyone else who replied on this thread.

Honestly, it does seem a bit daunting, especially because I will have a fairly time-consuming position, and we have young children. Also, moving back on short notice is close to impossible in my field (and we might have to take big career hits even if it's not on short notice).

As for the other questions on this thread: if we stay in the US, I believe my parents-in-law would eventually move closer to where we live. And we have their blessings to go wherever we have the best opportunity, but that doesn't mean much because they are not the most far-sighted people. :-)
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Old 05.06.2019, 17:53
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Re: Leaving parents behind

As a 70-year old myself, I can tell it‘s no age these days. My own parents both went to 90 eating red meat every day washed down with brandy. (I wash down vegetables with gin.)

I‘m sure your parents would not want you to spend the next 20 years - or maybe more not doing what you want to do because of their age...
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Old 05.06.2019, 19:59
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Re: Leaving parents behind

I have a similar situation, or maybe even worse, because my husband and I are both the only child of our parents. My father-in-law insists that we do what we want, they will take care of themselves. Let's keep fingers crossed, all the parents will be happy and healthy.
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Old 05.06.2019, 22:52
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Re: Leaving parents behind

Perhaps one of the central questions is: "Are you really responsible for your parents(-in-law)?"
The flip-side is: "Do the parents really want their adult children to use their resources to attend to the parents' needs?"
If yes, why?
If no, why not?

It is not a social law that the adult children must care for the parents.

Whether or not they choose to do so is a blend of cultural perspectives, personal autonomy, healthy and less healthy bonding, the quality of the relationships in the past and the present, mutual expectation management, etc.

OP, you need to work out your heart's yearning, and hear each other person's true views. Do what you're most likely to regret not having done, whether that is living your own lives or devoting your lives to the service of your parents.
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Old 06.06.2019, 12:16
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Re: Leaving parents behind

Hi OP and welcome to our community.

It sounds to me that you wish to move. We will not help you much, I don't think, with feeling of guilt or worries. But I personally think the following:

It will not be great for your inlaws. It will be more than great for your children. Sometimes how we personally feel is irrelevant. But who we prioritize when making decisions, isn't.
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Old 06.06.2019, 12:24
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Re: Leaving parents behind

Go for it... At the end of the day they are "only" at least a days hard core travelling away, skype and other social Network Things are Redily available. But for sake of piece of mind Always keep the Price of a plane ticket Handy.
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Old 06.06.2019, 12:56
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Re: Leaving parents behind

There are no easy answers, but you know this.

We moved to London when my parents were 84 and still traveling. Moved to Switzerland when they were 88, and now we go to them. I'll be flying back for an "eyes on target" visit and their 90th birthdays. I fly quarterly and yes, it's ungodly expensive.

In addition to @meloncollie's excellent advice, find someone nearby that can provide good tech support. Skype, Facetime, messenger can offer a way to stay connected daily, but can be frustrating for the olds when things go awry.

The hardest part is dealing with the guilt and "when are you coming home" questions. No solution will be perfect, so pick the one that offers the best future for you and your children. Good luck.
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Old 06.06.2019, 13:18
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Re: Leaving parents behind

You've got to live YOUR life. They're only 70. Some great advice above about providing support for getting jobs done but be careful here. It is good for aging folks to have concerns to consider & solve, like yard work etc.

It's free exercise.

again, you have to live YOUR life.
best of luck.
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Old 06.06.2019, 14:02
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Re: Leaving parents behind

My husband is in his 70th year and would be horrified to think for even a second that our children thought it necessary to stay geographically close because of his age!!

It's quite possible that your in-laws are natually self-sufficient in the social department and find their own company enough, as long as they're both happy and healthy I'm sure they're perfectly capable of sorting out most problems themselves.

The scenario meloncollie describes is rarher extreme (I'm not belittling her personal situation at all as I know she has had the problems she outlines, but simply because it happened to her doesn't make it the rule); if you are ever faced with similar problems they could be another twenty years down the line.
Please don't waste those years on being too scared to move away because of various 'what-ifs', have a long and serious talk with the family about your worries.
Then decide.
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Old 17.06.2019, 23:40
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Re: Leaving parents behind

It's important to live your life....but one thing hasn't been mentioned is your kids. How do you feel about them being so far from their grandparents? Our families are in Europe but we see them once per year. We miss out on a lot of family occasions. As time goes by, I feel my kids are missing out a lot by not having family close by.
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