SAHD’s 3 Months Escape

SAHD's 3 months escape

Hey everyone, I’m visiting my parents in Thailand for 3 months and left Mrs. RB40 and Junior in Portland. Now, some of you may wonder how I pulled this off. Aren’t you a stay-at-home dad? How can you go off by yourself for 3 months? Don’t you miss your family? Who will do all the cooking? It’s about halfway through my trip so I want to share how things are going and answer some questions. If you want to ask me anything, leave a comment below.

Why I’m in Thailand

I’m here in Thailand to help out my parents. My mom has advanced dementia and she needs a lot of assistance. Over the last 3 years, my dad has been taking care of her. At first, it was pretty easy because she could do most things by herself and she could follow directions. Unfortunately, her condition gradually deteriorated. After 3 years, she needs help with everything. She is like a baby and can’t do anything by herself. At this point, she can barely walk and that’s with some assistance. If she walks by herself, she falls and sometimes gets hurt. She fell several times already and each time, her problems got a lot worse. With us living on different continents, this is the last time I can help my mom and dad out. The next time I come to Thailand, my mom will most likely be in a nursing home.

My dad is really stressed out. Taking care of a dementia patient is very difficult. He always had a short temper so that doesn’t help. Anyway, he is trying to keep her at home for as long as he can. While I’m here, he can go out more often and relax a bit. It’s much better with 2 caretakers because you can take turns. Once I leave, he plans to hire a helper. However, I don’t think it will work out. He doesn’t work well with other people. He tried several helpers before and fired them after just a few days.  

My primary mission here is to find an acceptable nursing home for my mom. Once she can’t walk anymore, my dad won’t be able to take care of her at home. That point is approaching rapidly. She’ll probably lose her ability to walk in 2022. I also seriously doubt my dad will be able to find an acceptable helper. So it’ll have to be a nursing home. Last month, we tried a local place for a week. This place was super cheap ($600/month), but they don’t know how to take care of someone with a lot of problems*. My dad is extremely cheap so he always goes for the most affordable option first. I think we’ll have to go a bit upscale. I just checked out a nicer place this week. They charge around $1,000/month + expenses (diaper and personal care items). That’s still very affordable for us. I have 2 brothers and we split the expenses. This place looks a lot more professional.

*Problems

  • She almost can’t walk at all.
  • Limited use of her hands.
  • Can’t communicate.
  • Eats very slowly. At home, it takes about 45 minutes to help her eat. She can’t eat on her own. She also coughs frequently when she eats.
  • Difficulty swallowing pills. 
  • Incontinence. At a nursing home, they’ll use diapers anyway. But they need to change it often to avoid rashes.  
  • Can’t be left unsupervised in a chair because she’ll try to get up and walk, and then she’ll fall.
  • She needs exercise and maybe physical therapy.

Next Nursing Home

Here are a couple of pictures from the nursing home’s website. This place looks a lot more professional than the previous place. The problem is that they don’t allow visitors due to Covid. Once she’s in there, it’ll be difficult to see her.

What about your duties as a SAHD?

Fortunately, winter is a slow period at home. RB40Jr (my son) is going to school and doesn’t have any extracurricular activities right now. We’ll have a lot more activities in spring and summer. He’ll be in a soccer team in spring and we’ll play a lot of sports in the summer. I’ll be back by then.

Here are my SAHD duties in the winter.

  • I drop him off at school in the morning.
  • I meet him at the bus stop at 2:30pm. This year, he can walk home from the bus stop by himself so this isn’t necessary anymore. I still go when I’m not busy.
  • Cook dinner on the weekdays. This is my biggest SAHD job. While I’m away, Mrs. RB40 cooks easy dishes for the weekdays (and the weekends). I also encouraged them to get takeout more often than usual, so they’ve been getting something to-go about once a week.
  • Occasional quick cleaning and laundry. Mrs. RB40 is better at this so it isn’t a huge deal for her to pick up.
  • Home/car repairs. Hopefully, everything is working okay until I get back.
  • Coordinate with RB40Jr’s friends. Not much happening in the winter. Anyway, it’s good for Mrs. RB40 to pick this up so she can get to know other parents better.

Yes, life would be easier at the RB40 household if I was around. [From Mrs. RB40 – Actually, life is pretty good now that we have established a routine! We don’t feel so stressed and I like that there are fewer arguments between you and your son!] Mrs. RB40 drops Jr. off at school in the morning and has gotten more comfortable driving and parallel parking. She works from home for now so she can be available if there are any problems and when Jr. comes home from the bus stop.  When I return home, she will have to start going into her office. But they are doing okay without me for now. Mrs. RB40 is most worried about potential car issues, so hopefully, everything will be fine until I get back. I’ll be back in time for spring activities.

Do you miss your wife and kid?

Yes, I miss them. I have things to do in Thailand so I don’t dwell on it too much. But I do miss my wife. We text each other every day and occasionally call so we know how things are going. She is okay with being a single mom for now, but she misses me, too!

As for RB40Jr, I miss him just a little. When I called, he only came by to say “Hi” and ran off to play games with his friends. It seems he doesn’t miss me much. That is okay with me. He is growing up and he’d rather spend time with his friends. In a couple of years, he won’t want to spend any time with me at all. That is perfectly fine with me. I’m slowly preparing for when he goes off to college. Then Mrs. RB40 and I will travel the world and enjoy ourselves.

Related post – Financial Samurai says he’ll miss his children when they go off to college so he wants to spend as much time as possible with them. Having kids late might be the best choice after all. Personally, I already spent so much time with my son when he was young. I’m okay with ramping down together time as he gets older. I don’t think I’ll miss RB40Jr when he goes off to college. It’ll be like getting a big weight off my back. Hahaha (only half-joking here…)

Where are you staying and how do you spend each day?

I stayed at my parent’s 1 bedroom condo for the first half of the trip. It’s a small place (about 500 square feet) and it was not comfortable at all. I slept on a mattress pad on the floor and my back hurt. For the 2nd half of the trip, I’m staying at hotels and then in a rental condo. I wanted to get a unit in my parents’ building so it would be more convenient. Unfortunately, this took way longer than I expected. Staying with my parents was extremely annoying. I’m almost 50 and I don’t need my dad telling me how to do everything. We were driving each other nuts.

This is how I usually spend my days

7 am to 9 am – Take my mom to exercise. Have coffee with my dad. Help feed my mom. She takes a nap after this.

9 am to 11 am – My dad goes off to run errands. I stay home and watch my mom.

11 am to 2 pm – My dad comes back and take care of my mom. I go off to find something to eat and work on my content, video clips and blog posts.

2 pm to 4 pm – I head back to rest at the condo. By this time, my mom is done with lunch and she’s resting in bed. I usually just read and relax.

4 pm to 7 pm – I take my mom to exercise while my dad makes dinner. Then we take turns feeding her. After that, we relax a bit and then send her to bed.

7 pm – Occasionally, I take a walk after dinner. Otherwise, I’d just read or check emails. There is no good place to work at my parents’ condo so I didn’t work much there.

How were you able to convince your wife to go solo for 3 months?

She knows this is the last time I’ll be able to spend any significant time with my mom. The next time we go to Thailand, she’ll be in a nursing home. If this Covid situation continues, we wouldn’t even be able to visit her in the nursing home.

Would you consider moving to Chiang Mai long-term? Maybe for a few years?

Now that I spent more time here, I realize I don’t want to move here permanently. I wouldn’t relocate here by myself because I’d be bored. It’ll be better if Mrs. RB40 comes with me, but we’d need to find something for her to do. Chiang Mai would be good for a few months per year or if I can make some friends locally.

As for RB40Jr, we wouldn’t move here while he is in school. He’s more comfortable in the U.S. and he already has plenty of problems there. Changing the whole environment would be a big issue. There are some international schools in Chiang Mai, but he’ll have a hard time fitting in.

How does being a SAHD compare to SAHS (stay-at-home son)?

Being a SAHD is way easier. The problem with elderly care is that it gets more and more difficult every year. It’s just harder to take care of an elderly parent. They are terrible listeners.

What kind of things do you just love about Thailand? What do you miss about the US?

The best thing about Thailand is the accessibility and affordability of food. There are so many delicious things to eat here and most of them are very cheap. The cost of living in Chiang Mai is probably about 1/4 of Portland. Another thing I like is that there are very few homeless people here. I saw one homeless person here in 6 weeks. In Portland, homelessness is a huge problem. Housing prices are ridiculous and there aren’t enough services to get people off the streets. There are tents everywhere and some homeless people don’t respect homeowners’ property rights. They leave junk everywhere and take whatever isn’t nailed down. Homeowners are fed up.

What I miss about the US? Mostly families and friends. I haven’t stayed away long enough yet to miss anything else yet. Wine is way cheaper in the US, but we don’t drink that much anyway. Oh, I miss the independence in the US. At home, I can do whatever I want, whenever I want. Here, it seems like I’m always waiting for someone. That’s mostly due to being with my parents, though.

All right, that’s it for now. Let me know if I can answer any more questions. While I’m enjoying my time in Chiang Mai, I’m also ready to come home and I’m only halfway through my trip.

Passive income is the key to early retirement. This year, Joe is investing in commercial real estate with CrowdStreet. They have many projects across the USA so check them out!

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. After 16 years of investing and saving, he achieved financial independence and retired at 38.

Passive income is the key to early retirement. This year, Joe is investing in commercial real estate with CrowdStreet. They have many projects across the USA so check them out!

Joe also highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. They have many useful tools that will help you reach financial independence.
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32 thoughts on “SAHD’s 3 Months Escape”

  1. I’m sorry to hear about your mom. This is one of the reason why pursuing FI is important. It allows for the time flexibility for something like this. I’m glad you are able to be there for your family. Good health to you and your family!

    Cheers

    Reply
  2. So sorry to hear about your mum’s deteriorating condition.

    Unfortunately my siblings & I know too well about dimentia since our mum suffered through Alzheimer before passing peacefully last sept.

    Memories is all we have in the end and it’s both a blessing and curse since we remember and suffer while our mum live eventually carefree and stress free towards the end.

    I hope you find a good team & nursing home. Goodluck and all the best to your mum and your family.??

    Reply
  3. I’m dealing with many of the same issues. Thankfully (?), I live next door & work from home so I’m available. Being mobile & active is almost impossible with my mother, she flat out refuses to get out of her chair. When you mentioned “Take my mom to exercise”, is this a type of physical therapy that you go to? Or something you do on your own?

    Reply
    • I take her to walk up the stairs 4-6 floors depending on how she feels. We also do stretches and swings to help her flexibility.
      Her muscles are really tight all over her body. The doctor said it’s a Parkinson-like symptom during the late stage of dementia.
      We do this on our own for now.

      Reply
  4. I am imagining a routine with one kid at Jr’s age and it does sound like it would be manageable for a few months. Glad they’re not so stressed now that they have figured it out more.

    I’m glad you’re getting this time with your mom, this is such a hard time.

    Reply
  5. Sorry to hear about your mom, hopefully you’ll get a good nursing home that can look after her full time. It must have been tough for your dad.

    Glad to hear that you’re spending time with your parents.

    Reply
      • This is why you become FI/RE so you are free to do whatever you want/need.

        I am glad you are getting to spend time with your parents even though it has been hard. My mom was in hospice for less than two months and I was able to take FMLA for a few weeks. One of my brothers was working a 3-day/4-day schedule so he helped a lot as well. My dad was home too and my other brothers were around when they could. Though not FI yet, I was glad that I could afford the time off.

        Reply
  6. All of this is so fascinating to me, Joe! But I’m so glad that you have an opportunity to spend time with your parents right now and that you (and your brothers) are in a position to be able to help them financially as well.

    So wine is cheaper in the U.S., huh? That surprises me. Alcohol is a heckuva lot cheaper here in Panama than in the U.S. because they don’t tax the heck out of it. I can buy U.S. domestic beer imported here for less than I would pay in the States… kind of crazy!

    Great info, Joe! Enjoy the rest of your trip!

    Reply
  7. So sorry about your mom. That caretaking schedules sounds doable for two, but brutal when it’s just him. As things deteriorate maybe he’ll learn to suck it up and learn to deal with a helper. Covid restrictions make moving her to a memory care home even more difficult.

    When I was a child a lot of my friends were in Navy families. The dads would go to sea for 9 months at a time. The families adjusted. When dad was gone they’d eat what they wanted for dinner – toast and eggs or canned something. When he got back they had to go back to *real* dinners with meat, veg and starch. Women had deal with bills and home maintenance when men were gone and it was sometimes an adjustment on both side when he resumed *his* jobs. This was the 60s and a lot has changed since then, of course. Tasks are not so gendered but taking a break from the norm can still be a bit fun.

    Reply
    • It’s so much better with two people. My dad would have a lot harder time when I go home. Her dementia already made some progress while I’m here. She is getting worse pretty quickly.
      You’re right about one parent being away. The family adapted. When I go back, Junior will have to make some adjustments. My wife doesn’t discipline him much, unfortunately.

      Reply
  8. Hi Joe – Sorry your mom’s dementia is progressing so quickly. Watching the disease progress is brutal. My mom lost her battle to dementia a few months ago. A couple things stood out to me in your post to which I can completely relate…

    Aging parents being bad listeners – For anyone who hasn’t cared for a parent vs. a child…it’s a whole different ball game. When you care for an adult with dementia who is/was independent and has their own mind it is challenging. Unlike a child, you can’t easily coerce them to follow direction or pick them up and put them where you want them.

    My mom also had difficulty swallowing pills. If you haven’t tried this, we would use apple sauce or pudding to feed her pills morning and night. Worked so much better!

    Hang in there!

    Reply
  9. Dementia is absolutely brutal. Horrible for both the people experiencing it as well as those that care for them.

    Tremendous props to you and your father for sticking with it for so long! Moving her to a high quality LTC facility sounds like it would be a weight off of both your shoulders.

    Wishing you and your family the best!

    Reply
  10. I never viewed it as a SAHD escape, but more of a switch to working with another generation.

    It’s too bad that your father can’t bend a bit to accept a helper and doesn’t want a nicer place even if you and your brothers would be paying. At the same time, I would probably be the same way. I’m not great at deligating and I would be frugal too – LOL.

    We’re opposites when it comes to extracurriculars. We’ve got skiing, snowboard, drum lessons, soccer, baseball, karate, and Boy Scouts between two kids. They aren’t all doing everything, but it’s a lot. The soccer and baseball are literally at the time same in two different locations, so we have to split up with each kid.

    It sounds like you’ve gotten a good schedule together and your wife and son do too. When my wife deployed twice last year for 5 weeks, we got into good ones like them. Sometimes it was even easier because I could play the “It’s just me kids, so you are going to have to deal with it” card.

    Reply
    • Unfortunately, my dad is very rigid. Hopefully, I won’t be like that when I’m his age.
      We don’t really do many activities in the winter. It’s too wet and cold to go out and about.
      We’ll try to do more when the weather improves.

      Reply
  11. Joe, I feel for you and your family. You are doing the right thing by being there and trying to help your dad set up appropriate care for your mom, but, from personal experience, I know it’s tough. My mom had advanced dementia, and managing and providing for her care was one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do in my life. It was physically and emotionally exhausting as we had caregivers during the day, but not in the evening and at night. Add a full-time job to that scenario, and you can only imagine! My mom passed away several months ago after a long battle with this terrible disease. The whole experience gave me a new appreciation for how difficult and stressful it is to be a caregiver. I also came to the conclusion that I need to make sure that I have the financial means to hire adequate care (whatever that may be at the time) so that I don’t put my kids through what I went through. My best wishes to you and your family. Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s any easy way to get through this.

    Reply
  12. Hi Joe,

    I forgot about your mom. That is really good you are seeing her and helping her.

    Good luck with finding a caretaker. If your dad is super frugal, maybe you can help out or pay for it all? If so, maybe your dad will be more open to help.

    The 3 months will go by quickly. Enjoy it!

    Sam

    Reply

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