Expats Living Abroad with Dementia

Living in a foreign country has its challenges but if you compound this having dementia it can be a nightmare for you and your family who is most likely still in your home country.

After 40 years of living in Costa Rica, the numbers of those with dementia are rising steadily not only among the locals but also amongst the foreign retirees, most over 65.

Amid the countries shut down, I have seen three emergency pleas for help on Facebook from families whose loved one is alone in Costa Rica with dementia. In all three, the person with dementia was in some kind of trouble and because of cognitive decline and couldn’t maneuver their way out of it. The family couldn’t come to Costa Rica to help because of no flights. Imagine how alone and scared the person with dementia is and how helpless their family feels.

I was instrumental in helping one family by contacting the Facebook groups who lived in the person’s area and several people offered to help. Another, her dad was staying at a B&B and I suggested the daughter pay the Costa Rican owner to help care for him; it worked. The third I was so happy to see the daughter posted the plea for help on the local San Isidro de General group where her mother lived and it was heartwarming to see how many of the community immediately jumped in to help.

Since May I have been working on the development of a dementia project for Costa Rica in English and Spanish. www.theinfinitemind.org One of the programs is dementia education for rural areas; it’s an outreach program that will provide locals in small towns with in-person presentations by professionals on dementia, home caregiving, and available resources in Spanish. This program is to be in coordination with many senior organizations in Costa Rica. I’m in the process of networking and partnering with several. We just partnered with ASACAD the Costa Rican Alzheimer’s Association last week. We are working together to create a new English chapter for foreigners visiting or living in Costa Rica.

But the emergency situations of the Expats in Costa Rica with dementia hasn’t yet been included within the project design. Because of these three situations and past news articles about tourists with dementia getting lost, I feel its time to begin brainstorming the idea of how the project can eventually provide emergency services to ex-pat individuals and couples living with dementia in Costa Rica and their families outside the country.

I’d appreciate any help or ideas especially if you have dementia in your family or work experience in the area. Anyone wishing to brainstorm ideas to develop an ex-pat emergency dementia service, please message me. We could share ideas on zoom and include many of you from different areas in the country. These meetings are also open to anyone living in other parts of the world who have viable ideas or resources to help us create this service in Costa Rica.

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