101 EAST









DURATION:         25’50”


















101 EAST







MELLISSA FUNG:  With its tropical climate, natural beauty, and traditional culture, Thailand has long been a popular tourist destination.  But now there’s another reason drawing people here – a quiet revolution in caring for the elderly.


MARTIN:  The care system for elderly people in Europe is not working anymore, and it’s going to be a big, big problem.


NARRATOR:  In the west, horror stories of abuse and neglect in care homes – not to mention rising costs – are driving families to look for alternatives, forcing many to make difficult decisions. 


WALTER:  I got letters even from school friends of my wife telling me I’m an idiot to bring her, to dispose her here.


FEMALE:  And turn your body. 


NARRATOR:  101 East follows those who send their loved ones across the world for their final years.


101 EAST





MELLISSA FUNG:  It’s been a year since Walter Gloor saw his wife Maya.  He and his daughter Tanya have flown more than 13 hours from their home in Switzerland to see her.  But it’s a bittersweet reunion.  Maya is not sure who they are.


LAR:  Maya, look, who is this? 

WALTER:  This is …

LAR:  … Tania.  Tanya.

MAYA:  Yeah, yeah, yeah. 

LAR:  Who is Tanya?  Who is Tanya, Maya?  Look.  Who is Tanya?  Look.


MELLISSA FUNG:  Maya was just 50 and running a Michelin-starred restaurant with her husband when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, nine years ago.  It was devastating for the family.


WALTER:  She knew what's coming and she was crying every morning, you know.  And one morning, I remember I said to Maya, you know, I promise you one thing, I will always do the best for you, always.  Not for me, not for anybody else, just for you.  And she was kissing me and saying, thank you so much.  Thank you.


MELLISSA FUNG:  Was she scared?  Were you scared?

WALTER:  I was scare; she was scared.


MELLISSA FUNG:  Maya’s home is now a villa at the Baan Kamlangchay aged care centre in Chiang Mai, Thailand.  Her family brought her here two years ago when it became apparent she needed 24 hour care.



WALTER:  Shall we go and look at your room?

MAYA:  Yes, yes, OK.


WALTER:  This is going on for ten years and it’s slowly taking her apart from me slowly, slowly.  This is like, you know saying, goodbye in slow motion.  And this is the hard thing about that.  The disease, now, for us, is worse.  In the beginning it was bad for her, very bad for her because she realised what happened.  But now it's for us, it's for us, it's very hard.



MAYA:  It’s warm in here.  Warm.  

TANYA:  Yes, hot.  Not only warm, but hot.


MELLISSA FUNG:  Walter says bringing Maya here was the best option for her.  But back in Switzerland, not everyone agrees.


WALTER:  Yeah, well I got even letters from school friends of my wife telling me I'm an idiot to bring her, to dispose her here.

MELLISSA FUNG:  To dispose her?


WALTER:  Yeah.  Well it's not nice, but these people don't know anything.  They have never even looked for half an hour in the internet what really happened with Alzheimer patients.  And of course, lots of people talk and “he brings her to Thailand” yeah, you know, “get rid of her” or whatever.  The main reason was where is the best place for Maya?


WALTER:  And we all agreed, this place here, we couldn't find anything better.  So, I think she deserves to be in the best place in the world.


MELLISSA FUNG:  Mary Inman is also a long way from home. 



TOURIST:  Where you came from?

MARY:  Me?  I come from … Wait a minute.

TOURIST:  From England?  From America?

MARY:  I’ve been … I’ve been in the America.  But   there’s America … there’s, I have to say, you know … I want to go sit down now.  It’s just too hot. 


MELLISSA FUNG:  Unsure of where she is and unable to remember where she’s been, Mary is also destined to live out her days in northern Thailand, cared for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Today she’s visiting a local butterfly park.



MARY:  It’s beautiful but then there’s nothing you can do, is there.

CARER:  Look, mum.

MARY:  Oh, I know, but I've got to get out of here.  I want to go home.


MELLISSA FUNG:  Mary suffers from dementia.  Her family brought her here from the UK almost 3 years ago. 


MICHAEL:  We were worried about the gas fire.  You know, we had to give keys to all the neighbours in case she got locked out of the house, which happened a few times.



MICHAEL:  Yeah, yeah, she got locked out.  She would go out in the evenings, you know, in a nightie a couple of times.  And you know, luckily the neighbours found her and brought her back into the house.


MELLISSA FUNG:  Her son, Michael, and daughter-in-law Emily looked at care homes in the UK.


MICHAEL:  We did take her to a care home in Surrey to have a look.  It was an extremely nice, high end facility.  But it was a facility, it was like a hospital ward.  The rooms were very nice but they were small, and there were hospital beds. 

MELLISSA FUNG:  Hospital beds?


MICHAEL:  You've got the hospital signs up, the exit signs.  You have that feel and smell of detergent and –

MELLISSA FUNG:  An institution?


MICHAEL:  And a couple of guests asked us if we could help them leave.


MELLISSA FUNG:  They feared Mary wouldn’t survive in such a sterile environment.  Then they heard about a care resort in Thailand.


MELLISSA FUNG:  What was Mary’s reaction when you brought up the subject of perhaps going to Thailand? 

MICHAEL:  Of course, as soon as we mentioned it to her, her face, and we showed her the pictures and the resort and she-

EMILY:  She got excited.

MICHAEL:  It's interesting, she was excited.


MELLISSA FUNG:  Mary might now be far away, but Michael makes sure she’s not forgotten.


MICHAEL:  This is the picture of the day that Granny arrived in England from the Middle East on the boat.


Born in Palestine, the daughter of a British soldier, Mary later met and married an army officer herself.  She lived all over the world – a Cyprus, Malaya, Singapore, Hong Kong.


MELLISSA FUNG:  So, she really had this international upbringing.

MICHAEL:  She did.  She did.  Yeah.  You know, I think that helped shape her.  She needed to be someone that could go into a new school and to a new community and sort of integrate very quickly.  She's used to living in different parts of the world.


MELLISSA FUNG:  Today, I’m visiting Mary at her new home – Care Resort Chiang Mai.  Her villa is next to one of the two swimming pools.


MELLISSA FUNG:  Why don’t you sit down?

MARY:  No, you don’t.  Go on, go and get your bloody …

MELLISSA FUNG:  Be careful, Mary.

MARY:  Well come on, come and sit. 


MARY:  Isn’t he little?  He’s only little.  Very small. 


MELLISSA FUNG:  A photo book her family sent is filled with pages of a life that is lost to her.


MELLISSA FUNG:  Who’s that?

MARY:  That’s … That is him.  And that’s my Dad.  Oh, look at that sweet face. 


MELLISSA FUNG:  She has four dedicated carers, who work rotating shifts around the clock, ensuring she is never left alone. 


MELLISSA FUNG:  I heard that you were a good dancer.  Your son told me.

MARY:  Have I got a son?  [laughter] I can’t remember how to remember!



MICHAEL:  The carers are, they're remarkable.  I mean, yeah, they're like her daughters.  And I think she gets more comfort and pleasure from their presence than ours.  I think we stress her out.  She knows she's supposed to remember things about us, but she doesn't.  And so that really stresses her.


PETER:  It’s a 45-minute drive there and one hour drive back. 


MELLISSA FUNG:  Peter Brown is a British hotelier who bought this holiday resort 11 years ago.


PETER:  It was a pond before. 


MELLISSA FUNG:  He transformed part of it into a dementia care facility, after realising how badly his mother was looked after back home in the UK.


PETER:  I went to visit my mother in an English care resort, and within 15 minutes I'd called the ambulance and she went to hospital for three months.

MELLISSA FUNG:  What happened?


PETER:  She’d got cancer of the throat.  She was dying in a care resort and nobody was doing anything about it.  I'm not having a go at that one place.  It's the same philosophy everywhere else.  Not enough care staff.  After six o'clock at night, no care staff; you're on your own if you have trouble at six o'clock at night.


PETER:  I passionately believe that care helps people have a better life.  It's not about how long you’re going to live; it's how much you can enjoy the years you've got left.  And if you take a disease like dementia, you’ve probably got at least eight years to live.  So, it becomes quite important that those eight years are quite enjoyable, not locked in a room, treated like a child.


TRE:  Very good.  Okay, this one, open your hands out to the side. 


PETER:  So, I wanted to do things a little bit differently.  I couldn’t do what I want to do in the UK because of the cost of staffing.  So, Thailand has the advantage of being cheaper.  It also has the advantage of the Asian respect for the elderly.  It makes a big difference.


CARER:  Okay, shall we get up?  Let’s go. 


MELLISSA FUNG:  Six weeks after moving into the same resort, it's already making a huge difference for Dusko Doder.  A former journalist for the Washington Post, he reported from Moscow in the 1980s. 


FOOTAGE / DUSKO DODER:  The summit is in many ways a great boost to Mr Gorbachev, no matter what.


MELLISSA FUNG:  It was a time of huge historical upheaval.  It’s also where he met his wife and fellow journalist, Louise.


LOUISE:  He’s a lot older than I am and he was the best journalist in Moscow.  And helped me on a lot of stories, introduced me to a lot of people.  It was very exciting because he opened whole new worlds for me, helping me understand Soviet Union.  And that was sort of how we fell in love.


DUSKO:  I remember washing the baby, the first time.

LOUISE:  That’s right, you were looking very worried about how you were going to do it, right?  Look how tiny he is.  Look at you.


MELLISSA FUNG:  After a life abroad, the couple settled near Washington, DC, where they wrote books together.  But everything changed about two years ago, when Dusko suffered a massive heart attack and brain haemorrhage.


LOUISE:  I was working, I was doing a remote job as an editor.  I finally had to give that up.  And the thing about caregiving is it, it happens very slowly.  He lost abilities very slowly. So, by the end of last year, I don’t think I quite realised how much I was doing for him.  But my son came up and took care of him for a few days and he just said to me “Mum, Dad should’ve been in assisted living months ago; you can’t do this”.  And by that point, I was bathing him, dressing him.


MELLISSA FUNG:  When you looked at care homes / assisted living in the States, what did you find?

LOUISE:  I couldn't see Dusko in there and he did not want to go in there.  He would not want to be sitting in a sitting room with other people staring at a television screen, which a lot of people do, simply because they not able to do anything else.  And just a light bulb went off in my head.  I thought, I'm going to Google assisted living overseas, which I did.  And I found this resort.  


LOUISE:  Sounded too good to be true, but I thought, well, I'll go and take a look.  The minute I walked in here, I fell in love with it.  It was just so beautiful.


MELLISSA FUNG:  More importantly, she says, moving to Thailand meant they could stay together – something that would have been impossible in the U.S.


LOUISE:  We brought our dog and I'm slowly starting to make friends here, so I can see that there's going to be a sort of life where I can be with him a lot.  I’m working on this book right now, so I spend much of my day writing.  But always when he comes to lunch or dinner, I can join him.  And I feel it's the right compromise for me because yes, my life is still circumscribed by being here with him, but I have a lot of freedom to go out and do things and make new friends and to be a person, to be a wife again.


MELLISSA FUNG:  Across town back at Maya’s care home, it's also party night.  It’s less a resort and more a community for dementia patients and their families. 


MARTIN:  Remember Jenny?  And now we have her niece visiting us again.


MELLISSA FUNG:  Martin Woodtli opened this centre in 2003.  His father had just taken his own life because he couldn’t cope with his wife’s dementia.  There were few care options for his mother in their native Switzerland, so Martin brought her here to Chiang Mai.  He found full time carers for her and realised he could help others too.


MARTIN:  This is an experiment.  This is something new.  But it’s the way maybe we have to find new models of care, because the care system for elderly people is not working anymore.  And it’s going to be a big, big problem.



MARTIN:  Oh, look here.  It’s Franz.  Hi.  Haven’t seen you in a long time.


MELLISSA FUNG:  He now has 14 patients with round-the-clock carers, living in ten different villas.


MELLISSA FUNG:  Residents meet up for meals.  And outings are arranged for those who are able to go.  Today, they are visiting an elephant park.


LAR:  You see, elephant?

MAYA:  Yeah, yeah. 

LAR:  Yeah, yeah, okay. 


MELLISSA FUNG:  Tell me about the caregivers that you've brought in here.

MARTIN:  They are empathetic to people with dementia disease.  They love them.  They respect them and this is a wonderful thing in Thailand, the way they approach.  They go closer to elderly people, but still with respect.


MELLISSA FUNG:  Respect is something Eileen Chubb says is often missing in nursing homes in the West.  The former care worker in the UK now runs a non-profit that investigates abuse in homes across the country.


EILEEN:  I don't blame people, like I say, for looking abroad; I don't blame them.  But I do think it's a damning indictment on this country's care system.


MELLISSA FUNG:  Is this a private home?

EILEEN:  A private home, yes, and it’s a big, big company with big profits. 


MELLISSA FUNG:  For decades, her hidden camera has captured countless cases of unsanitary conditions and abuse in both public and private care homes in the UK.


EILEEN:  People were left with bedsores to the bone.  So, when you walked onto the unit, you could smell dead flesh.  People were screaming in agony.  People were pushed over, hit, spat at, they had their wedding rings stolen.


EILEEN:  We had one case where a lady had maggots in a wound, maggots.  People just been ignored.  And people just sitting sobbing and crying in a corner.  But the family didn’t see …


MELLISSA FUNG:  Thailand may provide better care options than these UK homes, but Eileen still has reservations.


EILEEN:  The number one qualification to be a carer, you have to have communication.  And if you haven't got that, you know, even if you got compassion, you can't translate it.  You can't translate it to the person and show them how you can make them feel safe.  And believe me, it's the best job in the whole world.  But I'm sorry, if you can't communicate with somebody, then you can't care for them.


MELLISSA FUNG:  But back in Thailand, Walter disagrees.


MELLISSA FUNG:  What do you think about her carers, these young women who look after her?


WALTER:  She has three beautiful women taking care of her.  They speak all English, which is nice.  I like to talk to them also, they can explain to me how Maya's doing.  I think a perfect team; she has a really good team here.


MELLISSA FUNG:  One of Maya’s full-time carers is Lar Yodkham.



I spend most of my time with her.  She has become a part of my family now.  When I’m not with her, I always ask if she’s fine, if she’s doing alright.


MELLISSA FUNG:  Lar grew up in a small mountain village about three hours north of Chiang Mai.  She makes the trip back here to see her own parents once or twice a year – her husband, two sons, and many gifts in tow.



We brought a lot of stuff for you.   



I wish that you live comfortably and be physically and mentally healthy, be wealthy and have a great job, and have morality forever.



I was born here in this village, Baan Nor Lae.  Growing up with my parents, my upbringing was rather simple. 


MELLISSA FUNG:  Lar’s parents are still fit and healthy, and living on their own.  But she’s already thinking about the future.



LAR:  As soon as my parents can’t look after themselves, I will bring them to Chiang Mai.  By then, I hope to have a better plan for how to take care of them.  Even with my work, I’ll still have plenty of time to be with them.  I’m not working 24 hours a day.  I’ve never considered taking them to live in a care home.



LAR:  You go to hospital?

LAR’S FATHER:  Just to the health centre.

LAR:  What did the doctor say?

LAR’S FATHER:  The doctor didn’t say anything yet.  I was told to wait for blood results this Wednesday.



LAR:  In this whole village, no one sends their aged parents to care homes.  Here, old people often take care of their grandchildren.  They have something to do and they feel worthwhile.


MELLISSA FUNG:  Looking after your elders is a vital responsibility in Thai culture.  But even here, things are changing.  She says she won’t rely on her sons.


MELLISSA FUNG:  Who will take care of you when you and your husband get older?



LAR:  I’m not sure who will take care of us when we get old.  I sometimes wonder if my children will take care of us in the future or if we’ll be sent to a care home. 


MELLISSA FUNG:  But for now, Lar’s concern is for Maya’s present – and future.


MELLISSA FUNG:  At a memorial back in Chiang Mai, she joins other guests and carers to mourn residents she knew and cared for who have passed away.



LAR:  With Maya, if she is gone one day, it will be hard for me to take because we’ve bonded.  We spend a lot of time together.



LAR:  Maya is the youngest in this care home.  I sometimes feel sad for her.  She is too young to be here.  She has three children who still need her.  Unfortunately, she can’t be with her own children.


MARY:  So, Kate, this is where Granny lived.  It’s beautiful, isn’t it?  A beautiful old house.  So much character, so much history.  Can you imagine moving here when she was eight years old?

KATE:  It’s way too cold!


MELLISSA FUNG:  Every family that sends a loved one to a care home has already grieved the loss, long before the decision is made.


MICHAEL:  I think everyone, so many people are struggling with this.  So, we're certainly not the first and certainly not the last that are trying to figure this out.  It’s a personal journey that you have to go through and you have to think through what is right for the individual, and this was right for Mum.


DUSKO:  I’m tried.

LOUISE:  You're tired.  You're pretty happy here, huh?

DUSKO:  Yeah. 


MELLISSA FUNG:  It is hard to come to terms with the fact that he's probably not going to leave?

LOUISE:  No, we’ve discussed it.  And he wouldn't want to go back.   So, this is it, and he's happy about that.

MELLISSA FUNG:  He’s happy about that?


MELLISSA FUNG:  He’s company?

LOUISE:  Yes, yes.


WALTER:  This is for me?  This is for me!  This is for me!  I open it for you, Maya, because you don’t like ice-cream.  So, I eat.  Okay? 


WALTER:  I will always take care of Maya, whatever happens.  For me, this is normal. She would do the same thing for me.  And yeah, she's an unbelievable person.  And you should have met her 20 years ago.  She was really, yes, the best person I've ever met.



WALTER:  And today … what do you want to do today, Maya? 

TANYA:  Maybe we walk. 

WALTER:  Do you want to go for a walk? 

MAYA:  Yes, we could.

WALTER:  Where should we walk to? 

MAYA:  Over there.





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