British families are sending elderly relatives with dementia overseas to Thailand in a small but growing trend, according to new research.

Caleb Johnston, a senior lecturer in human geography at the University of Newcastle, found that eight private care homes in Chiang Mai were housing guests from the UK because suitable care in their home country was “unaffordable” or “impossible to find”.

Johnston investigated the trend for Between Worlds, a project that looks at the different experiences of European and North American patients, their families and the Thai carers who look after them.

Johnston found that in Thailand, one-to-one around-the-clock residential care with fully-qualified staff is the norm, with a cost of around £750 a week for care in upmarket facilities. Private care in the UK costs on average £1,000 a week.

There are an estimated 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK and the Alzheimer’s Society predicts that number is expected to more than double to 1.6 million by 2040.

The UK care sector currently has an annual turnover of 30%, with 122,000 vacancies available, according to the organisation Skillsforcare. Up to one-in-eight care homes in the UK have been forced to close in the past decade due to staff shortages.

“Thailand already has a long history of medical tourism and it’s now setting itself up as an international hub for dementia care,” said Johnston. We hope that Between Worlds will contribute to a much-needed conversation about the physical and emotional challenges that families and carers face in providing dementia care, and the ways in which people are organising themselves in difficult conditions.”