New & Green

(Gilly Sandford) #1

New to the forum and looking for positive inspiration and plenty of advice in due course.
I am 60 (just…its a painful reality I’ve found) and my husband 63. We have talked about relocating to France for some time and now, my husband is ready to retire to a better pace of life. The one hurdle we have is his 94 year old mother, who lives independently but with our help.
How easy would it be to bring her with us to live in France? What would be the steps needed and I believe we would need medical insurance?

We are visiting the Charente very shortly and will be looking around to see if this would be the area for us. We would like to generate an income from the usual gite set-up, utilising one for MIL if she agrees to come and it is feasible.

Any tips/advice please to the scenario above and the Charente area. We are staying in Verteuilles and will be property searching around this area.

Thank you in advance.

(stella wood) #2

Hello Gilly and welcome to the forum.

It is quite a brave decision to come to France… especially with an elderly family member… however it is possible.

Neighbours brought 90+ Mother in Law to live with them a few years ago. They did-up part of the house so she had her independence and she soon settled in, despite having absolutely no French. Her ready smile endeared her to everyone… French and Brits et al… :hugs:

She was accepted on the local Doctor’s “list” (important to have medical care, pharmacies etc not too far away). It helped that he spoke some English, of course…

I will ask what (if anything) was transferable from UK… (re finances/income) and let you know when I have any info.

Meanwhile, I am sure others will chime in…

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(Jane Jones) #3

These days it’s all about finance. If you can show that you are each able to support yourselves, or you can support yourselves and your mother-in-law, then the likelihood is that you will have no problem and will be able to affiliate to the french health service after three months residence.

Obviously there are possible changes to do with Brexit, but to my mind if Brexit goes ahead it will merely become more convoluted, as in the worst scenario you will be entering france as a third county national and will have to get visas and jump some hoops. It won’t be impossible if you are financially ok. (But do not rely on a single gîte for a liveable income).

This is a good website for reliable info, although more relevant for people already or nearly here than a post-brexit world. However it sets out things like the financial thresholds.

To me the big issue is how your mother would cope with being out of her comfort zone, with friends and familiar things far away. My mother would have jumped at it as she loved France and spoke extremely good French, but england wasn’t her native country anyway. You need to delve into this…does your mum speak any french and if not how would your mother feel about having a doctor who didn’t speak english for example. If she is positive about new experiences then it could all be done.

The positive side is that the medical care here is pretty good, so if this is your dream then do it!

(Gilly Sandford) #4

That’s very kind of you and I shall look forward to hearing more… Thank you.

(Gilly Sandford) #5

Thank you for the info., and yes we’d be self-supporting. There wouldn’t be an issue with mother-in-law being out of her comfort zone as she is virtually housebound anyway and at 96 (I did say 94) she doesn’t have a social life and prefers to keep herself to herself.
Our main concern, as we are all she has, is if we are to fulfil our dream of living in France, bringing her with us, is really the only option. That will present some issues no doubt, but if she is agreeable and it is do-able, then it is really our only way forward.

(Peter Goble) #6

Hi @GillySB

Without knowing anything (except your own clear thumbnail sketch) about you as a couple, about your mother, or about the triangular relationship that inevitably exists amongst you…

…I do have experience with the mental health challenges that elderly people face personally, and the consequences for them and their support system, of a major dislocation from the familiar, the understood, and their position in the world

Old people, and your mother is very old, are very susceptible to major mental changes in such situations, and the likelihood of a severe and acute depressive illness developing has to be taken into account, not uncommonly with psychotic symptoms: abnormal suspicion, agitation, disorientation and mental clouding. The symptoms are not always immediately obvious, but can reach a crisis quickly, requiring urgent intervention

It’s best to be aware of this likelihood in case it does actually supervene. It may not, of course, but the potential is there for you all. Also bear in mind that your own process of adaptation is likely to have it highs but also it’s lows, and that may complicate your own ability to cope with a major life change. Six to twelve months in is a fertile ground for rising tensions, and sometime for ineffective methods of coping with change, especially when matched against high expectations

Mental health resources available to elderly people in rural France are acknowledged to be grossly under-resourced, and although medical care is very good, it’s presence in some rural regions is very patchy. Your mother’s inability to speak or understand French would also pose major limitations on its usefulness to you all.

Everyone, including me, will wish you well in fulfilling your ambitions to move to France with your Mum, bit it would not do justice to your situation or your appeal not to respond frankly, which is what I have done here.

Best wishes

PS contact me by using the private message facility if you want, and I will answer any questions you have, or respond to your own comments on what I’ve said here.

(Jane Williamson) #7

Does your mother use mental health services in UK?
If you want to live in rural France there are very few services to help if she does find it difficult after the move.
Also the GP system is also under pressure, it takes three weeks for me to get an appointment with my own GP, who is semi-retired.
He speaks excellent English having worked in the USA for three years.
This is not the norm!
We rely on our local firefighters for emergency health care and, an emergency doctor will also come if it is deemed necessary.
Our own doctor does not do home visits as we are too far out.
You know your own mother best, but I would really think hard about whether you would be happy for your mother to be in a french hospital where she would not understand what is going on.

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(Jane Jones) #8

You and Peter are right to point out the pressures. I should have qualified that most services are good (apart from mental health), but in great demand. However, 3 weeks for an appointment. That’s positively English!

I can’t remember how long you both have been out of England, but it’s possible that you are measuring french health services against an NHS service that no longer exists. 3 weeks to get a GP appointment is v common even in big cities in UK.

(Peter Goble) #9

We’ve been away for four years, Jane, but our adult children live in the SE of England and one needs long-term mental health support for paranoid schizophrenia, which the NHS is totally unable to supply.

He has been therapeutically abandoned, but his GP does his best to help him recover his disallowed benefits, and his elder brother is his support mainstay, at huge personal cost. My wife goes to UK regularly to help, and is a nurse herself and knows intimately the chaos that prevails there. I get too cross to be of much direct help, the situation is best managed by cooler heads.

I’m glad you both seem to share my concern for the future of the elderly woman and her supporters in this thread. The morbidity rates amongst the very old who are transplanted to new environments is shockingly high, and the rate and manner of their decline often dramatic, distressing, and traumatic for those who have to try to manage it. I heartily wish it were not so.

(Ann Coe) #10

A different case, mainly because of the age involved at the time of the move…
My mother came to live with me just over20 years ago following an horrific RTA in the UK that left her disabled and claimed the life of my father some months later.
She was only 66 years old and despite all the major changes happening so suddenly was able to adapt to life here.
In fact she loved it so much that when the referendum was for Brexit she cried thinking that she would have to return to the UK.
Following a stroke some 7 years ago I became her carer as there were things she could no longer manage, although it didn’t stop us getting out and about and having loads of laughs.
It isn’t easy looking after someone when you are in a rural setting and the ‘services’ are often far away. We had a brilliant doctor and local nurse who always managed to speak some words of English with mum while mum communicated in her ‘pidgin French’. Everyone who came into contact with mum adored her.

However at the age of 87 she had a fall and had to go into hospital for ’ a few days’. The care there was apalling, she was confused and was so scared that she was left unable to communicate (I don’t want to go into it) I insisted that she came home, even threatening to put her in my car and drive her home! She was brought here by ambulance, the local nurse arrived and set everything up, told me that mum might last a few weeks/months. I knew differently and she died the next morning after a of night of being comforted by me, in her own bed and surroundings.

All this to say that at your Mother’s age I do think it kinder not to bring her here . The elderly do become confused and frightned by anything that is new or that they don’t understand. Please don’t put her, or you through the stress…

(Mandy Davies) #11

Very brave of you to share this Ann.

I would have to agree with you. Although my hubby was not elderly when he died he became confused and found it difficult to communicate with the doctors and nurses in the last few months of his life, despite having excellent French previously. He was terrified of having to go into hospital and, fortunately, I was able to ensure that didn’t happen and he spent his last months at home with me.

Communicating in a new language is difficult at the best of times but in a crisis it becomes a nightmare. You need to know who to contact and how the medical system works in France. If you are determined to move with a very elderly person then you should be fully prepared. You can not expect doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers to speak English. The doctors may have a little English but others will probably have none at all. Imagine your MIL in hospital being unable to communicate with anyone and how frightening that would be - you can not be there 24 hours a day in those circumstances.

Also, consider what you would do if your MIL died in France. You need to be prepared for that as well. Would she want to be buried/cremated in France or brought back to the UK after her death (the red tape surrounding this and the cost would be horrendous)?

I would heed Ann’s advice if I were you.

(Chris Kite) #12

My mother could have come here with us at a similar age but for many of the reasons others have posted it just seemed wrong. I know I made the right decision. She would have ended up isolated, confused and unhappy.
You should really think very carefully before considering this move.

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(Nellie Moss ) #13

It’s very difficult,and at the end of the day only Gilly and her husband know her MIL and how she would cope with the move in a practical and emotional way. If they don’t make the move and end up resenting her would that affect their relationship? If they leave her behind there’s the guilt issue. If she is happy to go what if it goes pear shaped in a few months.? At the end of the day it is their decision
I would be most concerned with the health issues,even in a comparatively healthy elderly person even something as simple as a UTI can cause extreme confusion. .However she may really benefit from the move , I would say research and more research and maybe consider an area with a few anglophone residents as that may mean more health care professionals speaking some English

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(Peter Goble) #14

This is a matter for Gillie, her husband, and mother to ponder and discuss as frankly and openly as circumstances allow.

I imagine that Gillie may have found some of our comments bleak, disappointing, and unconvincing. I have not set out to convince, only to counsel, and I may be wrong in my prognosis. I have been wrong in the past, and very wrong.

So it is good that several voices have emerged to give more nuance to the decision the trio will make, or defer to another time.

My wife and I retired to France at ages 76 (me) and 71 (she) so the transition could still occur successfully 10 years into the future if mother dies during that time.

The last four years in France (of nearly 50 together) have been tough, as well as fascinating and worthwhile, but by no means always or even mostly easy. But we wouldn’t have it otherwise.

I do think that the up-beat and thrilling stories we tell each other on SNF may sometimes disguise the stresses and strains that moving into a new culture can entail, and the major adjustment that the relationship between partners must undergo. This could be much more complicated in ‘triangular’ relationships, which are the least stable in psychological terms, and most turbulent.

I hope that Gillie may let us know what she thinks of our ideas.

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(Jane Jones) #15

If you are able, another option would be to stagger your emigration. My mother was still alive when we first bought our house, and my sisters did not want her to come with us. So we had it as a second home whilst we worked on the renovations, and then when we retired I stayed in the UK so I could share the care for my mum (and in laws) and came over to France every 6 weeks or so. And OH moved here permanently, and popped back to the UK regularly. Once my mum died in 2014 I moved permanently.

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(stella wood) #16

I haven’t had time to talk this through with our Brits who brought " Mum" here at 90+. They live just down the road… but are involved in the London Marathon… so I’ll chat with them later…

I heartily agree that any Mum needs to be in complete agreement with the move.

Much will depend on where the French home is, and how it will provide whatever the Mum looks for in her present life…

Locally, with their “Mum” …it was a fun 5 years… only the final few months were somewhat traumatic (but hilarious) at times… I once spent hours in A&E with Mum and the family… Mum loudly proclaiming to all and sundry… “I’m not staying here”… and gradually changing to “this is really rather a nice room”… (especially when we reminded her that A&E in UK she might well have been on a trolley in a corridor).

That is the light-hearted side of anyone’s health… the dark side is that at 90+ the end cannot be too many years ahead.

The medical support for “Mum” was superb, except for a hiccup between ambulance and pompiers towards the final days… However, the hospital did allow her daughter to stay (mattress on the floor) and friends dropped by as often as possible to give emotional support.

It might be worth checking (if possible) if a family member would be allowed to stay in/close by to the hospital … if the need arose.

There have been occasions where folk have been let down… it happens…all we can do it try and work to avoid it… or deal with it swiftly as and when necessary. Thus a good Doctor is essential… being close enough for Home Visits is important. “Mum” was too far for the Doc to visit officially … yet, still he came if he could. But it was not always possible. Many places, I know of… do not do home visits… full stop.

Mum was able to sit in her lounge and watch passers-by… we would wave to her… and so would most of the locals…(no language difficulty in a smile and a wave…). She had her TV and woe-betide anyone/anything that clashed with her favourite soaps… :laughing:

I know that she was happy here in France for 5 good years… it’s been 2 years since she died and I still look… I’m ready to wave as I walk past her window… :hugs::hugs:

(Gilly Sandford) #17

Thank you for all your responses. You have been very generous with your advice/opinions and ideas.

My MIL was used to travelling and has experienced 30 house moves due to being married to an RAF officer in her younger years. So I would imagine she is used to re-adjustments and integration of new cultures.

Now, at 96 and a little frail, she just potters in her own home, light cooking and cleaning with a little help - as that’s the way she wants it. She like to have ‘things to do’ and looking after her home is what she likes to do. If we offer extra outside help, she turns it down. If we offer to organise a visit to an elderly persons lunch club, she’s not interested. She is pleasant and charming to those she comes into contact with, but is happy enough with her own company.
Living in France, with her own personal space, to do as she wishes, with us ‘next door’ she would see as a bonus. We will be on hand although she is not in the least demanding.

We will take her out if she wants to go. She will never go out on her own. She also likes to nap in the afternoon.

Yes, the reality is, anything could happen at any time. A seizure, a stroke, a urinary infection etc. It could happen to anyone. We have dealt with similar issues in the UK.

But, on the flip side, any remaining years could be a joy to her. Company, sunshine, her son next door, our animals. We hope to run a small gite business so the comings and goings of others, especially if there are children involved, would all bring her simple pleasure.

Therefore I ask…what about losing out on a great adventure and the next stage of OUR lives by stressing about stuff that may never happen?..and if it does, we’ll face it like we have all the other ups and downs life chooses to throw at us.

(Ann Coe) #18

Gilly, only you, your husband and MIL can make the final decison.
Running a gite business isn’t an easy thing to do, many on here will be able to give you their experiences /help.
Maybe you can get some home help for her too, depends how she feels about that and what is available.
You have to think of certain scenarios, for instance if she were ill and you had guests booked in who would take care of what?
If she were unable to look after herself how would you feel about the constraints it would put upon you?
If you weren’t there ‘next door’ for any reason would she be able to handle making a 'phone call if needed?
All that aside if you do come across one of the first things is to register with a doctor, type up a medical history for her including allergies, operations, etc, and get it translated, for yourselves too.
Organise a tele alert, depending on the company involved around 20 -25 euros per month.
I haven’t asked but do hope that you are able to speak French, the bureaucracy here is entirely different to the UK and it can be frustrating if you can’t express yourself.
Above all good luck with all your plans I hope your dream becomes reality :slightly_smiling_face:

(Catharine Higginson) #19

I think everyone else has said just about everything that needs to be said (yet again SF at its best, providing sensible, factual, experienced advice) but I just thought that I would add that the best piece of advice I have ever had, came from my mum, in relation to her two elderly (and very demanding ) parents. Which is, basically, don’t worry about things before they happen because they may well never happen and you will have just wasted a lot of emotional time and energy worrying for nothing.
In our case, this proved entirely true and it is something that I am now also (trying to!) put into practice.

(Peter Goble) #20

Well said @GillySB , eyes open, resilience and optimism in place! Bon courage.