World Parkinson’s Day brings chronic conditions into focus for international employers
Tuesday 11 April 2023 is World Parkinson’s Day, and a timely reminder to employers that staff working overseas require more support with chronic conditions than their UK-based colleagues.
For employees working abroad, having a chronic condition such as Parkinson’s, diabetes, arthritis, or a heart condition can be even more challenging. As well as different attitudes and approaches to chronic conditions in different countries and cultures, matters can literally get lost in translation at foreign medical centres and pharmacies, and there are different licences for medicines abroad, so people may struggle to access the medicines they are used to. Local knowledge and assistance with how to access medicines in each country and translation by local medical experts can be invaluable resources.
Many people with chronic conditions continue to work but need health and wellbeing support to do so. This should be put in place before an employee ventures overseas, so that they have access to appropriate care and regular check-ups. A chronic condition may also develop while the employee is overseas, and support will be needed in diagnosing the condition and helping the employee with how best to treat and manage symptoms.
Sarah Dennis, Head of International at Towergate Health & Protection says: “Many chronic conditions will not stop people from working abroad but they may need a little extra support to help them manage their condition and stay as healthy as possible.”
Know before you go
It is important to be fully aware of any health issues before an employee travels overseas for work, whether this is for a short trip or a longer assignment. Early diagnosis of any illness is generally the key to better outcomes. An employer’s support here can range from a simple health questionnaire to more comprehensive screening. Health screening can detect the risk or presence of a whole range of illnesses and conditions. Knowing the risk or the existence of a chronic condition will help with putting the best support in place for the employee to be able to continue to work as healthily and happily as possible.
Equally, a chronic condition may develop while an employee is on assignment overseas. Regular screening and health check-ups while they are away will allow for early diagnosis, followed by continued monitoring and appropriate support. This is particularly relevant for today’s ageing work population, where chronic conditions are more prevalent.
Managing chronic conditions abroad
The good news is that international medical policies are very good at including care for people with chronic conditions. International private medical insurance (IPMI) will often offer continuing maintenance and care as standard when UK cover may not.
Parkinson's is a progressive neurological condition. Symptoms appear when the brain cannot make enough dopamine to control movement properly, this gets worse over time. Around 145,000 people live with Parkinson’s in the UK, and it is the fastest growing neurological condition in the world. There are over 40 symptoms of Parkinson’s, with the main ones being a tremor (shaking), slowness of movement, and rigidity (muscle stiffness). The causes of Parkinson’s are not known exactly, but it is thought to be a combination of age, genetic, and environmental factors that cause the dopamine-producing nerve cells to die.
Sarah Dennis says: “World Parkinson’s Day is extremely important in raising awareness of the issues associated with the condition, but Parkinson’s UK is keen to point out that while living with the condition is tough, it does not define people. Someone living with Parkinson’s is still able to do amazing things. Employers have an opportunity to support employees who have Parkinson’s, and a number of other chorionic conditions, enabling the employee and the business to still benefit from the wealth of talent that the individual may have.”