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Eldercare Crisis
The West's Next Export: Boomers

Here’s a novel solution to the caregiver crunch accompanying the graying of the West: Some Europeans are sending their elderly family members to nursing homes in other countries where the care is cheaper. The BBC profiles Sybille Wiedmer, a Swiss woman who sent her mother to an home in Thailand, where Wiedmer claims she is very well cared for an affordable rate:

Martin Woodtli, the Swiss director of a Chang Mai care home, says his residents enjoy a quality of care and value for money that is missing back home.

“You can have three or four caretakers for one person and you can organise that this is possible 24 hours. This wouldn’t be possible in Europe,” he says. […]

Despite the distance, Sybille speaks to Elisabeth via Skype almost every day and visits Thailand at least twice a year.

Packing the elderly off to other countries might be more humane than putting them on ice floes, but it still seems less than ideal for them to be so far from family when they are at their most frail and increasingly debilitated. If any kind of Boomer displacement is necessary to reduce health care costs, it would be much better for the “young old” to go abroad voluntarily and enjoy a good life on the cheap while they are still relatively mobile and independent.

Either way, expect a lot more strange stuff like this to appear as the elderly population rises, especially in those countries with the biggest demographic bulges. The eldercare crisis is going to push families (and the social services responsible for those without family to rely on) to try lots of different responses, some weird, some inhumane, some good. It’s important to start thinking proactively about it on a national scale so we can weather the demographic transition while maintaining ethical standards and ensuring that the elderly can age, and die, with dignity.

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  • Corlyss

    “Some Europeans are sending their elderly relations to nursing homes in other countries where the care is cheaper.”
    Wow! Rendition! Why didn’t we think of that?

  • Boritz

    If life is cheap the elderly are at the bottom of the heap. Soylent green.

  • TommyTwo

    This does indeed have an unfortunate whiff of ice floes. On the other hand, their caretakers have an obvious incentive to keep them alive. And I doubt that many of the readers here who are critical would support importing the caretakers.

    (My reaction to the headline “The West’s Next Export: Boomers” was: “File under: ‘Why do they hate us.'”)

  • Jane the Actuary

    This was reported a while back in relation to Germans who send their elderly to nursing homes in Poland, especially the formerly-German part of Poland, where German-speakers are common, and among Germans who were among those expelled from this region, for whom Polish is still familiar or at least the region is. Nursing home funds stretch a lot further, which is a big consideration when the children have a legal responsibility to provide for their parents’ care to the extent that it exceeds the small per-diems from the healthcare system.

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