This is a question many families like myself who live overseas would be familiar with and will ask themselves frequently: have I done enough? This is especially when it comes to looking after our elderly parents in their twilight years.

Sons and daughters like myself, who live overseas, often ask ourselves this question.  We would usually spend a few weeks each year visiting our elderly parents, and with the Covid situation and international border closures, this question is becoming more relevant right now.

We still want to support them, be a part of the family, and still connect; but the issue is HOW, when we cannot physically be there for them?

There are no right or wrong answers to this, but …this is the price we pay for living overseas. And the lack of presence is more obvious when our parents are growing older each day, and they need more physical attention.

Deep down we know that nothing can compare to being there physically to support them, having the grandchildren surrounding them every day, and to celebrate the milestones together.

Therefore, how do we strike a balance when we live overseas? For the younger families, you only have a few weeks of annual leave to utilise, after that you have to head back to your home away from home, right?

When our parents are healthy, this question of support is of not much significance; however, when our parents are aging and needing more care, this question will become one of your normal topics for conversations and on-going consideration.

For example, when my dad was very ill a few months ago, forgetting about the borders closures, assume I could fly back to Penang to look after my Dad, the question is for how long? How long can I stay in Penang? What sort of support can I offer when I am not in Penang?

Can we compensate the lack of in-person-support by calling home more often? Or provide financial assistance by hiring carers to look after them at home or a good quality convalescent home? Or organise their favourite food to be delivered to them?

What else can we ‘overseas children’ do?

After that when I have to come back to Sydney, I have to leave Penang and let the two elderly parents fend for themselves, and rely on relatives and “carers” to takeover our part. The hardest part of our trips back to Penang is always the goodbyes at the airport. I will turn my head and see my elderly parents waving goodbyes as we walk to the plane, with the heaviest of heart… I am faced with the question – Have I Done Enough with the time I had with them?

Virtual goodbyes and in memory of my Dad

My dad with my then 3 month old daughter

Having fought very hard for more than 6 weeks, my dad passed away peacefully with my mum and brother next to him. He was in his late 80s. Due to the Covid situation, my sister and I could not attend the funeral. Virtual send offs and goodbyes are now becoming the norm until the situation improves.

Yet the question remains: have I done enough?