Residents of this facility for people with Alzheimer’s disease toss around a yellow ball and laugh under a cascade with their caregivers, in a swimming pool ringed by palm trees and wind chimes. Susanna Kuratli, once a painter of delicate oils, swims a lap and smiles.
Watching is her husband, Ulrich, who has a heart-rending decision: to leave his wife of 41 years in this facility 9,000 kilometers (5,600 miles) from home, or to bring her back to Switzerland.
Their homeland treats the elderly as well as any nation on Earth, but Ulrich Kuratli says the care here in northern Thailand is not only less expensive but more personal. In Switzerland, “You have a cold, old lady who gives you pills and tells you to go to bed,” he says.
Kuratli and his family have given themselves six months to decide while the retired software developer lives alongside his 65-year-old wife in Baan Kamlangchay — “Home for Care from the Heart.” Patients live in individual houses within a Thai community, are taken to local markets, temples and restaurants, and receive personal around-the-clock care. The monthly $3,800 cost is a third of what basic institutional care would come to in Switzerland.
Kuratli is not yet sure how he’ll care for Susanna, who used to produce a popular annual calendar of her paintings. But he’s leaning toward keeping her in Thailand.