Elderly Care Abroad



retire comfort dementia
cost treat (2) nursing home
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mobile well off translator
border draw (2) fortune (2)
elderly freelance doesn’t matter
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doable based in don’t mind
phase case (2) take a while
willing promise promising
care (2) boom (2) on the way
client hardship senior (2)
entitle consume time-consuming
region deep (2) countryside
awake back (3) father-in-law
cater minority meanwhile
linen staff (2) show around
towel first hand atmosphere (2)
pill pension physiotherapist
dawn trial run responsible
dust concern warm to the idea
medic chronic emergency
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fill out arrange prescription
snack admit (2) allowance
lung startup ambulance
bill (2) provide lost contact
earn therapy colleague
prefer suitable permanent
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Most people want to grow old in comfort. But the best place to do that might not be close to home: a growing number of German seniors are choosing to retire in Eastern Europe, like here in Poland, where the cost of nursing homes is much lower.

Could the elderly be Germany’s next major export?

Gunter Schtobauer wants to help German seniors find places in Polish nursing homes.

Gunter Schtobauer, Nursing Home Agent: “We’re here for the first time. We’ll be visiting the first homes over the next two days.”

Ingrid Fetts wants to test out a nursing home.

Ingrid Fetts: “I’ll be flying to Poland tomorrow to visit rest homes.”

She’s already had four back operations and could soon need permanent care.

Ingrid Fetts: “I have to know where I can go when I’m ready.”

The seventy-four year old is well off and owns her own apartment. But it means she’ll have to pay much of her old age care herself.

Ingrid Fetts: “In Germany, it’s not just a possibility, but the reality: when I need full-time care, I’ll lose my home.”

After every back operation, Ingrid received months of in-house help. In the next few years, she fears she’ll need permanent assisted living.

She’s looking for a nursing home that won’t cost a fortune — and she doesn’t mind where it is.

Ingrid Fetts: “It doesn’t matter for me. If the people there treat me well, Poland’s as good as Germany.”

Ingrid Fetts worked as a freelance translator. She earned good money and now draws a comfortable pension. Now she’s learning her eighth foreign language — Polish.

On the internet, she’s found a nursing home she likes in southern Poland.

Ingrid Fetts: “It’s close to the border with the Czech Republic.”

That’s almost a thousand kilometers from her home in western Germany. Ingrid Fetts wants to test the facilities first hand during a three-day stay.

Ingrid Fetts: “I’ll be able to get an impression of the people and how they treat the residents.”

She wants to leave her house and money to her daughter Astrid. She thinks Poland is too far away. Astrid lives in Munich and visits her mother around three times a year. Now that will mean travelling to Poland, and not Cologne.

Gunter Schtobaur is researching nursing home that could be suitable for German seniors. His company is based in Wiesbaden and is still in the startup phase.

So far, few people have been willing to pay the fee of one thousand Euros. But Gunter is sure that the retirement industry has a promising future in Poland.

Gunter: “There are a growing number of new, comfortable nursing homes being built. It’s not exactly a boom, but it’s on the way.”

Well-off seniors like Ingrid Fetts are his potential clients. In cases of financial hardship, old-age care in Germany is paid for by the state, but many of the 2.5 million elderly entitled to care have to pay a large part of the costs themselves.

The nursing home agents are now deep in the Polish countryside.

Getting first hand information is a time-consuming process.

Ingrid Fetts meanwhile has organized everything herself. She’s taken a cheap flight from Cologne to Katowice in southern Poland. There she’s met by the director of the nursing home, Fabritz Gerders.

The 32 year old German recently opened his own small facility, backed by is Polish father-in-law.

They’ve employed German-speaking staff and cater to German residents.

Fabritz Gerders, Nursing Home Director: “We have people from northern Germany, southern Germany, North Rhine-Westphalia.”

The nursing home is in the Silesian region, which has traditionally had German-speaking minority.

Ingrid is shown around.

One staff member is responsible for four residents.

Fabritz Gerders says that’s a higher level of care than most places in Germany.

Fabritz Gerders, Nursing Home Director: “We have two German-speaking physiotherapists. The facilities are clean and modern. This is all from Germany: towels, bed linen, bed covers.”

It’s all meant to create a familiar atmosphere for the fourteen residents.

Most of them are Germans. There are also several Poles who spent many years there.

Ingrid Fetts sits down for her first meal.

Ingrid Fetts: “What are the pills for?”
Female Resident: “I don’t know.”

Making conversation is difficult at first. Most of the residents are much older than she expected.

Male Resident: “My wife has dementia.”
Ingrid: “That doesn’t matter.”

Before she goes to bed, Ingrid calls her daughter in Munich.

Ingrid Fetts: “No I’m not at home at the moment. Everyone’s really old here. Some are over ninety. But there are two people here I can talk to. But this is just a trial run to start with. I’m just looking around, but I have to say it’s all positive.”

The next morning.

Some residents have been awake since dawn. Ingrid speaks about the concerns about her daughter.

Ingrid Fetts: “She says it’s a long way away, but she’s slowly warming to the idea.”

Ingrid’s daughter wants to know what will happen in an emergency.

Fabritz Gerders, Nursing Home Director: “In an emergency, the ambulances arrive very quickly with the medics. There are three hospitals nearby in Bohomin, in Radebor and in Rubnik.”

Ingrid Fetts: “I think their specialist clinics or general hospitals?”
Fabritz Gerders, Nursing Home Director: “I don’t know.”

She later learns the hospitals are for general patients, and almost no one there speaks German. That means when German seniors are admitted, they have to arrange their own interpreter.

But a German-speaking doctor does visit the nursing home, and fills out prescriptions. German health insurance providers pay for medication and patients entitled to nursing care still get an allowance from the German government.

Only four of the fourteen residents are still well enough to chat with Ingrid. One of them is Helga Schroeder. The sixty-five year old has chronic lung problems and is no longer mobile. She was brought to Poland with a medical transport.

Before that, she lived in a nursing home in Wuppertal.

Helga Schroeder, Resident: “They were really nice there, and the care was good.”
Journalist: “But much more expensive?”
Helga Schroeder: “That’s right; more than twice the price.”

Those high costs brought Helga Schroeder to Poland. She now pays 1,300 Euros a month, which includes German satellite television. In Germany, she was paying three-thousand Euros, and she needed her family to help out with the bills.

Helga says she and her family are happy where she is. They plan to make regular visits to Poland. But it means she’s lost contact with her friends back in Germany.

Time for an afternoon snack.

Dorka Dermenkinya is Polish and an occupational therapist. She learned German from her grandmother and by watching German television. Many of her colleagues don’t speak German at all. She earns about 500 euros per month.

Dorka Dermenkinya: “You could earn a lot more in Germany. We could go there and earn money to bring back. That’s a lot. But living here, earning local rates, it’s quite hard.

But I prefer Poland.”

Ingrid Fetts is nearing the end of her three-day stay. Time for one last call to her daughter in Munich.

Ingrid Fetts: “What about it being so far away?”
Daughter: “That’s your decision. I’ll just drive there instead of driving to Cologne. It’s doable.”

The trip would take about six hours. Ingrid Fetts is satisfied.

Ingrid Fetts: “I’d come here without a moment’s thought.”

She’s happy to grow old in Silesia.

The trip was less successful for Gunter Schtobauer: he found out that the nursing home boom in Eastern Europe is still a long way off. Currently, less than one percent of Germans needing old-age care choose to move abroad.

There’s simply not enough demand.

Not yet.
Gunter Schtobauer, Nursing Home Agent: “You can’t organize a major move like that overnight. It will take a while to get our first clients.

Gunter Schtobauer’s business will take a few more years to get off the ground. He himself plans to find a nursing home in Poland if he ever needs permanent care. For him, distance and language differences are no barrier.


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1. “Could the elderly be Germany’s next major export?” What does this mean?

2. Many elderly Germans move to Poland because they like to travel and experience new cultures and peoples. Is this entirely true, mostly true, in the middle, yes and no, partially true, mostly false or completely false?

3. What was Ingrid’s profession?

4. Why is she interested in moving to Poland? Will she simply move to a nursing home she found on the internet?

5. The nursing home staff only speaks Polish and all the residents are locals. Is this right or wrong? Are the residents there in their seventies?

6. What are the advantages and disadvantages of the Polish nursing home for the German residents?

7. Is there a difference between working in a nursing home in Germany and one in Poland?

8. Business is booming for Gunter. His business has been very successful. Is this correct or incorrect?


A. In your community, what happens to people when they retire or get very old?

B. Has it always been like this, or has it been changing?

C. Do retired people move to other places, do outsiders come to your region or both? Why do they move?

D. What will happen in the future?

E. Are there any problems, challenges or difficulty for senior citizens and society?

F. What are some possible solutions?

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