With social care in the United Kingdom on its knees and the NHS in a similar position, retirement communities in northern Thailand are becoming an appealing alternative.
Stretch, bend, lean, and shake — around 10 a.m. on a Friday morning, roughly 25 residents of a care home in northern Thailand participate in a slow-paced exercise class. Many of the participants are British, having travelled over 6,000 miles to seek elderly care.
Peter Mallard, a 75-year-old former hospital manager, and his 81-year-old wife Rita are among the expanding British contingent at Care Resort Chiang Mai. It’s a tranquil haven with modest homes, lakeside walks, breathtaking mountain vistas, and plenty of sunshine.
According to The Telegraph, The Mallards haven’t looked back since moving from Eastbourne in February.
“People get the impression, especially as you become older, that you’ll be locked in a room in a lounge playing bingo once a week… “You just can’t compare [to Thailand],” Peter told the Daily Telegraph.
“Our friends thought we were crazy,” Rita says from her house balcony. “But it’s the best move we’ve made.”
The number of residents at Care Resort Chiang Mai, a retirement centre that provides 24-hour nursing care, physiotherapy, and dementia assistance, has increased from 22 at the end of 2020 to 59 now. Over half are currently from the United Kingdom.
“It started to pick up in 2021. It began construction in 2022. “It’s booming, especially with the British,” adds owner Peter Brown. “In the month of November 2022, I had more people come in one month than would come in a year.”
It’s a similar tale throughout Thailand, with an increasing number of older Britons visiting to enjoy their retirement years and take advantage of the country’s thriving social care sector.
According to co-owner and creator Andrew Stocks, the number of British residents at Sunshine International, a statewide chain of retirement resorts, has increased from zero prior to the pandemic to 27 now.
Meanwhile, long-term care facilities Caremaker Ville and VivoCare Residence have reported an increase in inquiries from the UK, and HH Premium Visa Consulting, which specialises in Thai retirement visas required to enter care homes, has reported an increase in British applications since the pandemic.
With social care services in the UK on their knees and the NHS in a similar state of disrepair, it’s no surprise that many Britons are looking elsewhere. The inexpensive costs of retirement and nursing care in Thailand are a significant draw factor.
A care home costs £800 per week in the UK, and nursing care costs £1,078 per week. In Thailand, an extra £500 would cover the monthly costs of 24-hour care.
“Obviously, the price is a huge thing,” says James, a teacher from Cornwall who is thinking of bringing his Alzheimer’s ill father to Thailand.
“Dad owns a nice home in the UK; a four-bedroom bungalow at a reasonable price.” He doesn’t have a lot of savings, and we’re in that middle sector where we wouldn’t be able to get any benefits or pay for any care, or only a small amount, so if he went into a UK care home, the expense would effectively eat through the price of the house.
“Dad’s always said he doesn’t want the government to take it in terms of inheritance tax.”
The fact that James, who requested anonymity to preserve his family’s privacy, works in Bangkok and would be able to visit frequently eases the decision. But the major draw, he argues, is the high standard of care available in Thailand.
There is no specific guidance in the UK on the appropriate staff-to-resident ratio, but British care staff warned of a deficit that will harm residents in 2021.
One-on-one care is available at many Thailand establishments. Separately, the UK government has identified 30 Thai nursing homes that meet its quality standards.
Brown, who created treatment Resort in 2013 after being dissatisfied with the treatment his mother received in the UK, claims that all of his employees – 70 carers, three nurses, and two physiotherapists – have at least six months of nursing training and are capable of providing round-the-clock care for residents.
He believes the increased interest is partially due to a loss of faith in the NHS following the outbreak.
NHS waiting times are at an all-time high, and staff shortages are widespread. Furthermore, the government was strongly chastised for failing to appropriately protect care facility residents throughout the pandemic.
More than 40% of Covid-19 deaths occurred among care home residents from March to June of 2020, and numerous grieving families are now suing the government.