When the international borders are closed and your loved ones need you

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we have witnessed a lot of changes worldwide. One of them in particular is the lock down of international boarders in most countries, which means international travel is not only very restrictive, but also disruptive, costly and with extended delays.

This also means that there are no festivities, weddings, or birthdays gatherings internationally and even no visits to elderly and sick parents overseas for the time being.  Also there can be the unfortunate event of attending their own parent’s funeral/s from a distance while consoling each other over the internet and not knowing when they will be seeing each other again.

The longing, heartache and sadness are immeasurable!

Right now as I am writing this article, my dad is critically ill and on life-support in one of the hospitals in Penang.  My sister and I who are living overseas are unable to head back.  However, luckily, my mum is surrounded by my brother and other relatives for comfort and support in this difficult situation.

We are also very lucky to be able to connect via the internet to discuss and communicate, so we don’t feel like we are being cut off entirely from the situation. Many people who are in similar situation will be doing the same.

However, for some families, the circumstances will be different.

There are families where they don’t have immediate relatives living close by and can only rely on community support and senior care facilities to care for their elderly parents.  And should the parents need urgent medical care, who will in charge?

I also have a relative who is the single carer for both their elderly parents in Penang, and before that, her overseas siblings would normally take turns returning home to support and care for their parents.  However, now with the current covid lockdown situation, unfortunately this relative of mine is now coping on her own.

Another elderly parent, who looks forward to seeing her children in person every year, now settles for Facetime or WhatsApp chat.

I also heard that there are a few elderly parents in senior care in Malaysia wondering why their children who live overseas did not visit them during the Chinese New Year this year?

It has been very hard for many families with the current border closure situation. However, I believe this is a fantastic opportunity to plan ahead and reach out and reconnect with relatives. Take this opportunity to opening up communications with your parents or elderly relatives, and if you need to, discuss with them and plan ahead where necessary.

Some examples:

  • Encourage elderly relatives who reject technologies to connect with you via technology, so that you can connect with them even though you are living far away.
  • Reconnect with relatives who you can trust and comfortable with to plan on how to support your elderly parents should the need arise when you are not able to travel back.
  • Speak up so this is a good opportunity to open up topics that are normally “taboo” (funerals, pallative care) by the elderly relatives/parents, such as…should the inevitable happen, hear what their wishes are.

By being able to connect, discuss, communicate and plan ahead it can help to lessen the inconvenience of not being able to be physically present.

I would love to hear about your own experiences.

Remember that every day we have our parents is precious!