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Why I left my mother in Thailand

In 2010, Sybil Wiedmer took her ill mother to Baan Kamlangchay. A difficult decision, she tells, but one which turned out to be just right.

“My mother is 92 and suffers from short-term memory loss. For example, she can’t remember whether she has already eaten. We lived in the same town in canton Zurich. She lived on her own and visited me every day. She always refused domestic help. She said she didn’t need it.

When I was away for a few days, I had to arrange things with friends and family. For longer absences I turned to old people’s homes. Those were bad experiences for her and for me as well. My mother stayed in her room alone, with nothing to do. She was very unhappy.

Because of the illness we used to argue a lot. It got to the point where I thought I was going to have a breakdown. In May 2010, we took her to Chiang Mai, although not all members of the family agreed. I told my mother we were going on holiday. The plan was to leave her at Baan Kamlangchay for three weeks. Everything went well and she hasn’t left since.

We talk to each other often via Skype and I visit her at least once a year. She knows she’s in Thailand, even if she sometimes asks me where she is. To be honest, I don’t know whether that’s the illness or whether she’s doing it on purpose. I think she occasionally would like to be at home. She asks about her flat and her furniture. But then she tells me things are good where she is. She likes feeling she’s on holiday.

She no longer has any awareness of time. She doesn’t know whether we saw each other yesterday or a week ago. It would be the same if she was in an institution here and I saw here once a week. This, together with time, has reassured me. Basically the distance doesn’t play any role at all.

Thailand isn’t a solution for everybody. It worked with my mother because of her background: she was born in Basel but grew up in England and Germany. She spent many years in India and the Far East. She had already experienced Asian culture. Unless there’s an upheaval, we’re going to leave her in Thailand.”

(Translated from Italian by Thomas Stephens)

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR