Expat LifeLoss & Grief

Looking after a loved one as a carer abroad

Moving abroad is a massive life change. As I stated in my previous articles, we need to find our tribe, a community we feel good in. We also have to adjust to a new work mentality, a new job market and new ways of interacting. I have mentioned the pain we go through when we lose a loved one at a distance. And how about moving and living abroad with a partner, a relative, a kid who is disabled or ill due to physical or mental health? That makes the transition even tougher and worrying. How to calm your worried mind and face a new health system?

1. Getting the right advice… fast!

That’s a real challenge. Caring for a loved one is in itself an everyday challenge and now you have to deal with it in a new environment. Trust has been your motto so far – it was hard to get it in your home country but you’ve made it and found the right support. Now you must do it all over again and trust strangers without losing your mind and health.

First and foremost, try to prepare yourself from home before the move. Get as many pieces of information as you can beforehand – call specialists in the host country, ask locals in online groups, check the information you get with other carers who have been through the same ordeal. This will help you feel more secure and mentally prepared to face any potential setbacks or administrative dilemma.

Once in the host country, check the benefits system if any. Turn to experts, if needs be, to get the right pieces of advice fast. If you have moved to a non-English speaking country like France, look for English-speaking associations and experts. If in doubt, ask for information in international groups locally.

The main goal is to obtain several options to get solutions fast so that you can feel reassured, not isolated, properly supported, and understand the health system abroad. Treatments may differ, views on specific medication may be different, online and local support may offer new options you had not thought about or are not offered in your home country. Getting prepared is the best way to adjust and feel secure.

2. Coping with feelings of guilt

That is totally natural. You already have a lot on your plate and now you are afraid of not being able to offer the right support and healthcare to your loved one. That’s a lot of pressure!

You may be consumed with the thought that you want to do more, do the best you can, and offer the best care available in the host country. What is really important for your loved one is to feel cared about, to be looked after properly and you have done so so far. Moving abroad may offer other treatments, medication or support that you have dreamed of but that are not available in your home country. It can also be a good and positive change for you and your loved one. Nothing is carved in stone and change may also lead to good things.

If you feel a health professional or your entourage doesn’t get what you mean, does not explain things clearly, doesn’t understand the whole picture or why you may feel lost, then do tell them. Value your role as a carer. Value the fact that you have been courageous enough to move abroad despite the challenges you face on an everyday basis. And make that clear in a calm and assertive tone to the professionals and your entourage.

3. Looking after yourself

Moving abroad is draining. Adjusting to a new culture and system is daunting. Adapting to a new health system with a disabled or sick relative may look like a roller coaster! You must, and I insist on ‘must’, look after yourself.

Do not put your needs aside especially at this specific phase of your life. There is a lot to take in, to digest and to learn from. You need ‘me times’, to share your feelings, to have a stroll in nature, to exercise, whatever reduces your anxiety and pleases you. Be kind to yourself, your mind and body. Whenever possible, let other relatives or professionals look after your loved one. You need breaks!

I do hope this article will help you feel you are not alone, that caring is of great value and being a carer is a tremendous task that must be valued anywhere you go and move. If you need to talk and emotional support, I would be pleased to be that helping hand.

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