Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Offshoring Alzheimer's

They may not plan to retire in Thailand yet that's where they might wind up.   The cost and quality of care for those afflicted with Alzheimer's at home is creating jobs for Thai care givers.  It's a concept in which the pros and cons are very stark.
Residents of this facility for people with Alzheimer’s disease toss around a yellow ball and laugh under a cascade of water with their caregivers, in a swimming pool ringed by palm trees and wind chimes. Susanna Kuratli, once a painter of delicate oils, swims a lap and smiles.
Watching is her husband, Ulrich, who has a heart-rending decision: to leave his wife of 41 years in this facility 9,000 kilometres from home, or to bring her back to Switzerland.
Their homeland treats the elderly as well as any nation on earth, but Ulrich Kuratli says the care here in northernThailand is not only less expensive but more personal. In Switzerland, “You have a cold, old lady who gives you pills and tells you to go to bed,” he says.
Kuratli is not yet sure how he will care for Susanna, who used to produce a popular annual calendar of her paintings. But he’s leaning toward keeping her in Thailand, possibly for the rest of her life.
“Sometimes I am jealous. My wife won’t take my hand but when her Thai carer takes it, she is calm. She seems to be happy,” he says. “When she sees me she starts to cry. Maybe she remembers how we were and understands, but can no longer find the words.”
Germany is already sending several thousand sufferers, as well as the aged and otherwise ill, to Eastern Europe, Spain, Greece and Ukraine. Patients are even moving from Switzerland, which was ranked No. 1 in health care for the elderly this year in an index compiled by the elderly advocacy group HelpAge International and the UN Population Fund.
Facilities in Thailand also are preparing to attract more Alzheimer’s sufferers. In Chiang Mai, a pleasant city ringed by mountains, Baan Kamlangchay will be followed by a $10-million, holidaylike home scheduled to open before mid-2014. Also on the way is a small Alzheimer’s unit within a retirement community set on the grounds of a former four-star resort. With Thailand seeking to strengthen its already leading position as a medical tourism and retirement destination, similar projects are likely.
It's a tough call, one I'm glad I never had to make.

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