With advancements in travel and technology, the world seems to grow smaller every day. Traveling becomes easier and less expensive all the time. As a result, more and more adults are working abroad away from family. Living and working abroad can be a wonderful, exciting experience, but just like any other major life change, it comes with challenges. One of those challenges may be living far away from elderly parents.
Family relationships are an important part of our identity. Those relationships change and grow as we age and as our parents age. That doesn’t change when you become an expat who lives far away from your parents and other family members. While it may not be as easy to maintain a relationship with your elderly parents as an expat, it can be done with a little planning and compromises from both parents and children.
Technology offers a variety of ways to stay connected with family members who are far away. Emails, online chatting, and even social media can be useful to stay up-to-date on the lives and happenings of family members. The best online method of communication though is Skype. Skype can be used on a computer, tablet or phone and allows you to video chat with your family members. This can allow you to feel closer to your family members even when you are far away. It also allows you to see your elderly parents and make sure they look happy and healthy. And don’t forget you can still communicate the “old-fashioned” way, if the seniors in your life aren’t in love with the internet and new technology. Email is great, but everyone still loves receiving letters in the mail.
Time for Travel
Moving away from aging parents can be anxiety-inducing and possibly depressing, especially if you do not know when you will see your each other again. So decide in advance when you will next see each other. Will you be able to afford traveling at Christmas every year? How do you need to budget to make sure you can travel to see family members? Which family members will be traveling? Don’t wait until the last minute to make these decisions, since travel can be very expensive at different times of the year.
While you are planning for fun travel, keep the less-fun travel plans in mind. If your parent becomes ill or dies, have a plan for how you will travel in a hurry. Research the fastest route home. Have a plan for who will take over your professional and personal responsibilities while you are away. It is not something anyone wants to think about, but planning for a parent’s inevitable death and funeral is necessary, especially if you are far away.
Before leaving, or while you are visiting home, build up your support system. Make connections with other family members or neighbors who can check in on your elderly parents and get in touch with you. Get in contact with your parent’s doctors and be sure they know you are far away but still want to be kept in the loop. You can request doctors and other health professionals call you via Skype when discussing your parent’s health.
Many senior citizens struggle with loneliness and depression as they age, whether their children are nearby or not. Help your parents find things to do to stay busy, like volunteer work, social clubs, or exercise programs. You know what they are interested in and may just need a push to get out the door.
Take Care of Yourself
Finally, near or far, you can not take care of anyone if you are not taking care of yourself. Having an elderly parent can be stressful, and that anxiety and stress is only compounded by being far away. Remember you have a support system, and be sure you are not spending too much time thinking or worrying about your parents far away. Be sure to take time to look after yourself and keep things in perspective.