Dementia Care Outsourced to Thailand

Medical tourism is taking on a new definition as more families send their loved ones with dementia abroad to Thailand for residential care due to costly and hard-to-find care at home in Britain.  According to a recent Guardian report, Thailand has long been a destination for medical tourism and is now preparing for the wave of aging baby boomers, many of whom will need 24/7 dementia care. 

Although the numbers are small now, British, Swiss and Thai-run facilities are planning for growth and are able to provide individual, round-the-clock care for residents at a fraction of the cost in the UK.  With a high staff turnover rate in British care facilities and private care running at around £1,000 a week, with a caregiver ratio of 1:6, the posh Thai facilities are appealing at a cost of about £750 per week.   

Although placing a loved-one in care in a different country a great distance away is a difficult decision, families are struggling to meet the financial burden of care in the UK and oftentimes find that care at home is inadequate.  Not only is senior care and housing more affordable in Thailand, but the culture is also one of great respect for the elderly and with more staff, the complex needs of people living with dementia can be better met.   Older adults with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia require a great deal of patience and time; something that is in short supply in many western dementia care facilities. 

A recent study out of the University of British Columbia, Canada takes a closer look at outsourcing care for the elderly based on observations over a three-week period at two care homes in Thailand.   Learn more here about a recent collaboration, Between Worlds, that combines the research of UBC scientists and material by performance artists creating a narrative about the outsourcing of dementia care. 

According to the Alzheimer’s Society, there are currently about 850,000 people with dementia in the UK but this number is expected to rise to 1.6 million by 2040.  One in six people over the age of 80 have dementia and 70 percent of nursing home residents have dementia or severe memory problems.   Two-thirds of the cost of caring for a loved one with dementia is paid for by the individual and their families in the UK, putting a tremendous financial and caregiving load on families.  

Stay tuned as we continue to follow this emerging trend in long-term care.