Those of you from the U.S. and other countries who are considering Mexico for retirement will find it reassuring to know there is a growing number of options for assisted and independent living and nursing care in Mexico. Many of these offer high-quality, affordable care along with all the other benefits of living in Mexico, including good weather, beautiful beaches, fresh food and caring people.
With costs for long-term care in the U.S. running between US$2,500 and US$7,000 per month, the majority of Americans may have to face a horrible reality: they may not be able to afford the care they need. There are currently no federal government programs that offer money for long-term nursing care and none is anticipated. Contrast this with the affordable US$1,000 to US$1,700 per month typical for assisted living and nursing care in Mexico. Suddenly care is affordable to many more people, even those who may have to live on Social Security benefits alone.
The culture of Mexico is very different than the U.S. and Canada with respect to attitudes about elderly care. Multi-generational families living together are the norm and older people are treated with respect. Most Mexican elderly live with their families until the end of life. Traditionally, the care of elderly parents is the responsibility of the youngest child. However, the regard for elders is present everywhere. The warmth and level of genuine caring is surprising to many expats who are used to perfunctory treatment in institutional settings.
While assisted and independent living and nursing care in Mexico are not part of the culture, the number of facilities designed for the needs of expats – including English-speaking staff members, awareness of the cultural differences such as food preferences, holidays, English-language television, magazines and similar things – are increasing.
The goal of both independent and assisted living facilities is to offer a healthy lifestyle and needed safety and care for seniors. The type of care required for retirees ranges from almost no specialized care, to total dependency and full-time nursing care.
The categories that most concern retirees, by degree of need, are: 1) independent living, where help is standard and a supplemental menu of available services can be utilized on an “as needed” basis and, 2) assisted living, where more extensive care is needed and an entire menu of services is typically included for a monthly fee.
The typical features of assisted living facilities in Mexico are:
- Three meals per day in a common area that serves as a dining room.
- Help with eating meals, bathing and dressing, going to the bathroom and walking.
- Access to healthcare
- 24-hour security
- Call systems for emergencies in each living area
- Wellness programs, including regular exercise
- Management of medication
- Washing and ironing clothes
- Activities for recreation and to enable socialization
- Employees to help with both scheduled and unscheduled activities.
It is common for assisted care facilities in Mexico to also offer Internet service, libraries, video games, cable or satellite television in English and other electronic and telecommunications amenities. Some offer luxury features such as swimming pools, patios, exercise-machine-equipped gyms, putting greens, landscaped walkways and bike paths. The presence of medical staff on a 24-hour basis is an option for larger assisted living facilities.
Independent and assisted living facilities should accommodate visiting family members in everything from parking to meals. Whenever possible, independent housing should provide sleeping areas for family members, or there should be accommodations for visitors available as part of the facility or in hotels or posadas (bed & breakfasts) nearby.
The business and healthcare communities of both Mexico and the United States are investing in care facilities in Mexico designed to serve the elderly from the English-speaking world. You can expect members of the administrative and medical staff to be appropriately educated, well-trained professionals and bilingual. Other staff members may have some level of English. There is no requirement for expats to learn or use Spanish, although some facilities offer classes.
If you are living In Mexico you may have yet another option, sometimes called “aging in place.” You may be able to delay the assisted-care option longer or entirely by receiving affordable care in your own home. Nearly everyone retiring in Mexico can afford a maid who can do some cooking and laundry one day a week or more for approximately US$15 – $25 per day, and in some places full-time care from a licensed nurse is available for approximately US$550 per month.
Facilities often reflect the changing needs of residents, from well-designed, low-maintenance individual houses of 900 to 1,000 sq. ft. for independent-living couples or singles to mini-apartments or rooms for assisted living that are connected via interior corridors with a central commons area where a dining room, exercise and recreation areas, medical center, lobby and administrative offices are located. Some facilities also include a special section or separate building for residents requiring full-time nursing care.
It helps that workers in Mexican facilities are paid a living wage and personal-care and housekeeping professions are respected. Contrast this to the U.S. where those who provide most of the hands-on care are paid inadequately. Nursing facility workers in the U.S. are the working poor, often on government assistance, struggling to care for their families and with jobs held in low regard. All of this leads to a sky-high 70 percent annual job turnover rate. This sometimes leads to what has been called “elderly warehousing” and nightmarish scenarios.
Many families that would prefer to keep elderly parents nearby are considering long-distance options like Mexico simply to make certain they are well cared for.
If you are healthy now, remember that you may reach an age when your ability to care for yourself is limited. So, while you are scouting for a place to live in Mexico, it is always good to keep this possibility in mind. Your future independence may depend on the choices you make today. Here are some of the things to consider:
- What are the local long-term care options?
- Is local public transport and/or taxi service adequate?
- Are there local hospitals and are they private or public?
- Do you need a doctor with training in a specialty? Not every city has specialists in every field.
- If you have respiratory problems, is the elevation going to be an issue?
- Heat and humidity can drive up the cost of living by requiring air-conditioning and the increased expense that comes with that.
- Are there likely to be mobility issues now or down the road, such as cobblestone pavement, lack of curb cuts, missing or poorly maintained sidewalks, multi-story houses or walk-up apartments?
While options for assisted and independent living and nursing care in Mexico are not yet available everywhere, and there may be shortages even in popular destinations as Mexico gears up new development in this damaged worldwide economy, it is easy to envision a day when Baby Boomers choose to retire to Mexico and bring their elderly parents with them to live in a nearby assisted living or nursing-care facility. Or, since some facilities offer both independent living situations and care with more hands-on or intensive medical care, to have multiple generations living together comfortably and affordably in Mexico.
One more proviso for those seeking retirement in Mexico. Even when the developers and operators of assisted living facilities have gone out of their way to make you comfortable and at home in their facilities, this is still another country, another culture. People are very polite in Mexico, and it is important to greet, thank and say goodbye to people for even the most casual interactions. If you are not willing to do this, not willing to adapt to a new culture, you should probably seek options elsewhere. But if you love Mexican culture, and are willing to adapt to the differences, you could not find a warmer, more hospitable place to be.
You can also read the article, “Is the Eldercare Industry in Mexico Ready for the Baby Boomer Wave” article. If you would like additional information, here are a few resources you may want to check out: