In January 2020 Los Angeles-based nurse and case manager Elena Lopez realized the first part of a 20+ year vision – to return to Mexico to open a hospice, the first in her native state of Michoacan.
There have been previous efforts since the 1970’s to create hospice homes in Mexico following models in Canada, the UK, and the U.S. For financial reasons, as well as the predominant family cultural value of caring for the ill at home through end-of-life, the hospice home model with others doing the caring has yet to be accepted or sustainable. There have been hospice homes but none have survived.
How will Lopez create a sustainable model?
Lopez’ residence Hospice of the Angels has married assisted living care with rooms for hospice. Assisted living is a concept prevalent in every state of Mexico.
Lopez has attracted not only local Michoacanos but Mexican-Americans with life-limiting illnesses who wish to live their last months in their native land. Note: It costs families in the U.S. up to $20,000 or more for remains to be shipped from the U.S. for traditional Catholic burial. Choosing Mexico for end-of-life helps defray these expenses for Mexicans living in Canada or the U.S. and allows local family to be present.
Lopez continues to train staff – nurses, caregivers, and volunteers, despite the pandemic -based on her professional experience in California at VITAS, Kaiser Permanente, and in private service. In 2020 her staff also received End-of-Life doula training (psycho-social practical and ritual support) with psychologist and doula Wilka Roig of the Elisabeth Kubler-Ross Foundation of central Mexico. Roig is headquartered in San Miguel de Allende. (See www.ekrmexico.org ).
Hospice of the Angels currently has 10 assisted living residents. The home hosted five hospice patients this year. There are 15 staffers including Luisa Fernanda Ruiz Montiel psychologist/tanatologist who holds a PhD (former professor), the accountant, and an attorney.
Despite COVID, Lopez and team have managed to keep the virus out of the home, and, host fundraisers. Residents are busy with small therapy dogs, arts and crafts, visits by priests, and music performances. Recently, American hospice nurse Ian McCartor, known for creating inspirational Legacy Songs for his patients in English and Spanish, played and sang at the home.
An out-patient hospice service in Morelia and neighboring areas has not been deemed practical. It is considered unsafe to send doctors, nurses, and caregivers out at night due to heavy cartel activity.
At Hola Hospice of the Angels, each room offers a bed for the patient and a bed for a family member, a model first instituted in Mexico by Dra Susana Lua Nava at Juntos Contra el Dolor, the first and only level one 24/7 palliative care hospital in the neighboring state of Jalisco. See www.JuntosContraelDolor.com
Mexican end-of-life care is provided through out-patient or in-home services in most states. Since the Mexican Palliative Care Law of 2009, there is now a broader view for care of the ill that includes those with life-limiting, painful illnesses that may last many years.
How to find Hospice of the Angels:
Fundación Hospicio de los Ángeles
Miguel Silva 149 Morelia, Michoacan de Ocampo, 58260, Mexico
Tel. 52 443 275-0279 office; 52 443 331-6647 cell; and USA cell 213 706-1111
Additional hospice project for Uruapan, Michoacan, Mexico:
Lopez is collaborating simultaneously with a Michoacano whose life dream has been to open a home for older adults. The gentleman donated land in a tranquil forest area. Part of the home will be dedicated to assisted living and nursing care, the other part to hospice which will be headed up by Lopez. Architect Ivan Marin of Morelia will fuse old Michoacano style (lots of wood) with Japanese Zen-style structure – healing light, views to nature from all sides, and tranquility (a hard-to-find concept in Mexico). Two years ago Lopez and Marin travelled to Japan to study hospice and architectural concepts they could incorporate. Lopez says she envisions a quiet, meditative, sacred place. They plan to break ground within two years.
Wendy Jane Carrel, MA, is a Spanish-speaking senior care specialist, consultant, and Mexico senior living writer from California. She has travelled Mexico for several years researching health systems, senior care, and end-of-life care in order to connect Americans, Canadians, and Europeans with options for loved ones. She has investigated hundreds of senior housing choices in 16 Mexican states. Her web site is http://www.WellnessShepherd.com.