Supporting the Relocation of Elder Family Members 05.26.2023 | Ruhi Van Andel

Relocating for work can be a challenging experience for anyone, and the numbers back this up with relocation ranking as one of the top three most stressful life events. Adequately supporting families through these transitions is a critical component of talent management and organizational longevity (and it’s also incredibly rewarding).

Unfortunately, this already stressful life event can be even more challenging for certain demographics, including accompanying older parents who depend on their children for care. In many cultures, especially in Asia, it is common for children to take on the responsibility of caring for their parents as they age. For these employees, this can lead to a reluctance to relocate. And for those who accept a relocation, there are many challenges and considerations to ensure a successful transition for all family members.

These unique considerations will depend upon the needs of their elderly family members. For example, they may need to find suitable housing that can accommodate their parents’ mobility (i.e., accessible bathroom, single-story house), source local healthcare providers that can offer specialized care, and navigate a complex healthcare system in the destination country. In addition, they need to balance their work responsibilities with their caregiving duties, which can be particularly daunting if they are moving to a culture that is less accepting of this dynamic.

Thankfully, we are seeing more companies responding to the needs of assignees caring for elderly parents by offering benefits around elder support. Some companies will offer family leave, telemedicine services, in-home nursing care, and even financial assistance for elder care responsibilities. That said, this trend is a relatively new one, and most companies do not offer any support around elder care for relocating employees.

There are also regional differences when it comes to elder care. For example, in the APAC region, where multigenerational households are more common, elder support is in greater demand. In many Asian cultures, daughters are expected to take on the primary caregiving role for their parents, which can create challenges for female assignees who need to relocate for work. These challenges can be compounded by gender discrimination in the workplace, which may make it more difficult for women to access elder care benefits or take time off to care for their parents.

It’s worth noting that not all Asian countries are the same in terms of cultural norms towards elder care. For example, in Japan, it is uncommon for children to take care of their parents, and many Japanese professionals will only visit their parents once annually, generally to celebrate the new year. This could explain why Japanese employees are more eager to accept overseas assignments than others in the region. In contrast, having worked and lived in Hong Kong and Singapore, multigenerational households are very common, and there is a much greater reluctance to accept overseas assignments for this caregiving reason.
Aya Chau Global Supply Chain Specialist, Hong Kong

The challenges of an aging population aren’t exclusive to the eastern hemisphere. It’s a global (and growing) phenomenon. According to the UN’s World Population Prospects 2019 report, by 2050, 1 in 6 people in the world will be over the age of 65, up from 1 in 11 in 2019. The impacts of this aging population will affect how global mobility professionals around the world approach retaining and recruiting talent with dependent parents.

How would these challenges play out in real-time? Let’s take Emily as an example. Emily recently accepted a job offer that will require her to relocate to another country. Emily’s parents are both in their seventies and require specialized medical care, so as their primary caregiver, she chooses to bring them with her. Not only is Emily challenged to find suitable accommodation with the space and accessibility features that her parents need, but she is also faced with the daunting task of securing comparable medical services within a medical system that is foreign to her. Fortunately, Emily’s company offers an elder care support program that allows Emily to take unlimited time off to care for her parents when needed; time that she is also able to use upon arrival at her destination to source the right support services and accommodations that will work for her family. Her company also offers a flexible working environment, allowing Emily to work from home three days a week, which allows her to provide immediate care to her parents. Thanks to the support from her company, Emily and her parents are now fully settled in their new home, and she is thriving in her new role.

The Bottom Line?

More than ever, we’re seeing the critical importance of flexibility in supporting a diverse workforce. Flexible mobility programs that include some element of choice of benefits empower your mobile workforce to curate personalized experiences with the support that they need to be successful. For some, that means the option to choose pet relocation support, so that Rover can make the trip around the world with the least stress. Or extra school search support to help secure a school for a child with special needs in the destination country. For others, like Emily, the ability to leverage an elder support benefit will make all the difference in giving her the peace of mind that her parents will have everything they need in their new home. In business-speak, this peace of mind translates to productivity and, ultimately, a higher relocation ROI.

Benefits to Support Talent with Dependent Elder Parents

While this is not an exhaustive list, here are a few benefits worth considering to support caregiving talent:

  • Additional house-hunting allowance to allow for adequate time to find accommodations that meet mobility/accessibility needs, and/or reimbursement to allow dependent elderly parents to accompany the house-hunting trip.
  • Extending temporary living allowance in the event that modifications have to be made to the destination housing to ensure accessibility for elder parents.
  • Providing specific needs-based destination support and settling-in resources, such as support in locating appropriate housing, medical services, cultural/social groups, etc.
  • Offering allowances and benefits, even on a one-off basis, such as a longer period of temporary living to help meet elderly parent needs.
  • Caregiving leave benefits to allow the employee the flexibility to visit elderly parents who are not accompanying them on the assignment.


Contributing Author:

Aya Chau

As a Global Supply Chain Specialist, Aya sources and manages strategic suppliers for the Weichert Global Network in the APAC region. Aya relocated to Hong Kong in 2016 and joined the Weichert team in 2020.

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Written by Ruhi Van Andel

Ruhi is the Digital Content Specialist on Weichert’s Marketing team. Leveraging a decade of experience in writing and marketing, she develops buzz-worthy content for the company’s website, social media channels, and client & colleague communications. Ruhi is a cat person, in case you were wondering.

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