On November 2 the newspaper San Diego Union-Tribune hosted a free event that attracted a 50+ crowd interested in subjects related to aging. Main speakers were Patricia Schultz (author of 1000 Places to See Before You Die) and Captain Dale Dye, USMC retired (author, filmmaker) focused on veterans and others.
Most of the activity at the San Diego Convention Center was at booths. Among the participants offering information were AARP, Leading Age, healthcare service providers, a cancer awareness initiative group, estate planners, Medicare Advantage Plan insurers such as Humana and SCAN, retirement counselors, senior movers, senior living placement consultants, a sleep therapy advisor, and others.
The highlight for me, related to some of my work as a senior placement consultant for Mexico, was to meet up with Miguel Angel Torres and Marisa Molina of Serena Senior Care in Baja California. I toured their Rosarito assisted living home last year and am eager to return to see their latest developments. I appreciate their dedication, enthusiasm, and focus on quality care. See www.serenacare.net plus links to videos found on their web site.
As an aside, Serena offers residents and visitors to Baja a Full Assistance Card for $99/year ($198 per couple). The Full Assistance Card offers ambulance services, roadside assistance, a 24-hour bi-lingual call center, discounts, and access to online medical records. Have not seen this service in action so am not in a position to comment on it. Information on this is at the web site listed above.
Corey Avala of www.RetireBaja55.com was also present to encourage folks to retire early and “affordably” to one of three developments he is involved with. Have not seen them.
Jane Garcia, a realtor from Dream Home Mexico was also there to espouse the benefits of retiring to Mexico.
One of the advantages of Baja California for assisted living and retirement, aside from the lower cost of living, is its close proximity to San Diego for health care through the Veteran’s Administration, and U.S. healthcare for American ex-pats who wish to return in case of need.
Many thanks for the warm reception by the San Diego Union-Tribune sponsor team! Many thanks to the San Diego Union-Tribune for producing the San DiegoEldercare Directory 2020 available in print at the expo, and also available on-line at http://www.sandiegoeldercare.com. The directory includes listings of independent living and long-term care throughout San Diego County.
I am grateful to Focus on Mexico, where I address the ever-changing topics in Mexico (and elsewhere) of independent living, assisted living, nursing care, Life Plan Communities (CCRC’s – there is only one so far with others being developed).
The next talk to the Focus on Mexico attendees is March 21 at 11:15 a.m. at a hotel in Ajijic, Mexico. See https://www.focusonmexico.com/focus-6-day-program/ Focus on Mexico offers seminars to folks interested in how to move to and/or live in Mexico. All presenters at Focus on Mexico are volunteers.
On Friday, March 29, I will be speaking at a FREE community event (open to the public) at the Lake Chapala Society Sala in Ajijic at Lake Chapala, Mexico at 2:00 p.m. on Why End-of-Life Planning is a Good Idea for Ex-Pats in Mexico.
Here below are links to articles I have written on the above-referenced subjects:
Wendy Jane Carrel, M.A., a Spanish-speaking senior care specialist, has spent over seven years traveling province to province in Chile, Ecuador, and Mexico researching senior living options. She acts as an advisor or liaison for those who wish assistance negotiating health systems, senior care options, end-of-life care, and disposition of remains.
A group of American, Canadian, and UK ex-pats and “snowbirds” recently gathered for the first Death Café Ajijic, Mexico. There were 18 persons present at Café El Grano including an anesthesiologist, a hospice nurse, a hospice social worker, a psychiatrist, teachers, and others. There were two facilitators who work with end-of-life planning and transitions.
If the term Death Café (excuse the direct wording, I prefer Sacred Conversation) is new to you, you may hear it more and more. Death Cafes or Café Mortels began with Swiss sociologist Bernard Crettaz who held over 100 such meetings in his native country until recently. In 2011, Jon Underwood, inspired by Crettaz, created Death Cafes in England (see history at http://deathcafe.com/what/ ).
These all-volunteer social events to discuss death and dying respectfully and informally (no agenda) are now held in 52 countries including Australia, Europe, Canada, the U.S., and parts of Latin America where death has sometimes, but not always, been a foreboding and scary subject. Buddhist, Hindu, or Muslim countries, and places with indigenous populations tend to consider death a natural part of life and honor it as such more easily. Most café organizers work with end-of-life, and tend to focus on alternative, kinder, spiritual ways of departing. Note: There is a Death Café in Singapore.
“At a Death Café… our aim is to increase awareness of death to help people make the most of their (finite) lives,” states the Café web site. Most of all, the Café encourages an exchange of stories and perspectives as a way to embrace death.
What prompted a Death Café in Ajijic?
First, a number of retired ex-pats and visitors die in Mexico unexpectedly, and, they die without a health care directive and/or an end-of-life plan. There is a need for continued conversation and education.
Second, Loretta Downs, MA, has been speaking to locals at a popular venue, Open Circle (as well as at In the Heart of Awareness, the Buddhist center), about end-of-life for several years. She flies in from Chicago every January to deliver her talks. About 300 + persons show up to listen as she encourages her audiences to become friendly with the idea of mortality and to prepare for it – think about it, and express to others what you want. See http://www.endoflifeinspirations.com.
Third, yours truly, Wendy Jane Carrel, MA, has been speaking to ex-pats around Ecuador for three years and subsequently in Mexico with the same passionate message – make friends with your demise, please make a plan.
It seemed natural for Loretta and I to team up to host a Café for Lake Chapala.
My interests had been reinforced as a result of volunteering two years at Juntos Contra el Dolor, the only 24/7 palliative care hospital and hospice in the state of Jalisco, a model for Mexico. I was given the gift of observing how painful chronic and terminal illnesses are treated, the politics of medicine, the politics of opioids, cultural difficulties related to dying, family constellations, and the difficulties of running a non-profit in a rich country (yes, rich in many resources) with little tradition of philanthropy. Most of all, I learned the concept of a “good death” requires much education and outreach in Mexico as well as at home.
Loretta’s friend Nancy Gershman, who produces Death Café NYC, gave us welcome pointers before the Ajijic meeting. We followed Nancy’s advice – small tables of 3-4 for intimate conversation, one of us (Loretta) to circulate and ensure participant exchanges were flowing, see that anyone who was recently grieving the loss of a loved one was comfortable, followed-up by an evaluation to learn what we could do better the next time. https://www.meetup.com/Death-Cafe-New-York-City/
Because Loretta and I travel often, she is based in Chicago, and I in LA, we may not be producing other cafes until January 2019 unless another healthcare worker can pick-up in our absence.
Note: If you have not heard of Ajijic, it’s a sleepy Lake Chapala village, with a population of around 10,000, an hour south of Guadalajara. It is a popular tourist destination. Lake Chapala is home to around 20,000 full-time retirees from north-of-the border.
According to realtors at Lake Chapala, Mexico, and the information desk at the Lake Chapala Society in Ajijic, the popular ex-pat retirement destination has received more than double the no. of potential renters, buyers, and information hungry folks from Canada and the U.S. than in years before. (Other popular retirement destinations are also seeing an increase in activity – see no. 3 below).
Among visitors intent on moving are travel aficionados looking for a unique cultural experience, the prospect of meeting stimulating people from all parts of the world, but more importantly, an opportunity to stretch their dollars.
And then there is senior living and healthcare, a subject of interest for most. For “sandwich-generation” boomers who lost savings and/or homes during the American recession of 2007-8, or spent savings for the education of millennial children or grandchildren, many are finding there may be little left for themselves or parents if assisted living or nursing care are ever required.
An added concern is that funding for Medicare and Medicaid in the U.S. are currently being challenged.
If the cost of assisted and continuing care in Canada (Canada takes care of its disabled, ill, and older adults through universal care programs but there is also private pay care) or the U.S. is not an option, there are more affordable options in other countries. The closest place to look is Mexico.
Here are guidelines for looking at assisted living and continuing care in Mexico, costing between $600 USD to $3500 USD/month, depending on the value of the American dollar and the Canadian dollar vs. the peso, the location, and the residence you choose:
Take note – in Mexico the terms assisted living and “nursing home”are often one and the same, with exceptions. Care facilities are not known as they are north of the border – assisted living, rehabilitation, nursing home, and hospice. It is often an all-in-one approach. Also, with some exceptions, homes mix physically disabled residents with memory care residents.
Select cities or areas you wish to be in for climate – coastal, desert, mountains. (Coastal tropical places cost a little more because A/C is expensive).
If the future resident does not speak Spanish, seek places with ex-pat communities and English-speaking locals who are often a source of volunteers – Baja California Norte (Ensenada, Rosarito Beach, Tijuana), Cancun, Lake Chapala, Mazatlan, Mexico City, Puerto Vallarta. Or, choose smaller places such as Merida, and San Miguel Allende. Some care homes have all foreigners as residents, others locals and foreigners together. Usually one person on staff speaks English, sometimes more than one.
Do the due diligence. Research places and determine costs. Most assisted living and “nursing homes” catering to foreigners have web sites in English easily found on Google Search.
Consider private pay homes and non-profits, as well as residences run by nuns whether you are Catholic or not. Nuns often (but not always) provide quality care as most are nurses with a mission to serve, plus costs tend to be what Mexicans would pay if price is a consideration. Another level of care is found in government homes, some pleasant others not; some accept foreigners with residency cards. There are differences in every region of the country, and there are no rules.
Note: no two places will be alike – financially, environmentally, socially, and in terms of care. Homes are not regulated with the strict standards one is accustomed to in Canada and the U.S. However, there are places with quality care and high standards.
Conduct site visits. Assess for yourself what might be an acceptable match in terms of environment and people. Would you or your loved one feel comfortable and safe? Do you like the space, the staff? How are you welcomed? Do residents seem cared for or are they alone in “God’s waiting room” without attention and activities? Ask residents what they like best and what they don’t like. How clean is the home? Standards differ from place to place. Arrive at meal time… is there enough assistance for each resident? Is food fresh, nutritious, and nicely presented? Is it food you would or could eat? Does the home prepare meals compatible with health challenges? What about care plans and medication management? What about emergencies? How are these matters handled?
There are no simple answers for selection.
Ideally, we would all have perfect health to our last days and an abundance of funds which would allow us to receive the best possible care wherever we choose to live.
Note: CCRC’s (Continuing Care Retirement Communities, from independent living to demise), now referred to as Life Plan Communities, have not arrived in Mexico, with one exception. There are plans in the works for Life Plan Communities in Baja California, Cancun, and at Lake Chapala from American, Canadian, Mexican, and Spanish developers.
Throughout Mexico, children and grandchildren make a point of spending time with their elders on August 28. They also bring gifts. This year, because the official day is Monday, most festivities and visits were held over the weekend.
Note: The tradition of celebrating Grandparents Day was instituted in 1983 under the presidency of Lazaro Cardenas. During the 1990’s, announcer Edgar Gaytan promoted the special day on a radio program dedicated to older adults. It has become an important event for families.
This year, Ohana Assisted Living in San Juan Cosala at Lake Chapala in the state of Jalisco honored its residents with a grand party that included relatives and friends, staff, folkloric dancers, an extraordinary jazz band with musical choices remembered by the generation of residents, and a beautifully prepared buffet. The residents at Ohana are from Canada, Mexico, and the U.S.
Hosts Ana and Alonzo, both geriatric nurses who live on the lovely campus, warmly greeted all. They produced a memorable event.
The dancers changed costumes three times and by the end of their performances they had gone from pastels to bright and colorful red, white, and black!! Loved the zapadiada dancing. Fun for all.
Can you have control over your end-of-life care? Is it possible to avoid aggressive medical treatment if you do not want it?
According to a Dartmouth Atlas study, 80% of terminally ill patients in the U.S. say they don’t want intensive treatments.
My interpretation: Patients, whether terminally ill or not, are asking for comfort, quality of life for their last days, and relief from pain (palliative care).
The photo and statement above are from an article by Jessica Zitter, MD, for the Houston Chronicle. She says, “my patients need to understand their options and make their own decisions.”
In order to make one’s own decisions in the U.S., such as avoiding hospitalization and invasive treatment, one must create an Advance Healthcare Directive or Five Wishes (an alternative advance directive recognized in 42 states and the District of Columbia). You must declare your specific medical wishes BEFORE such events might occur.
Your wishes must be notarized. Then they are legal. Be aware they may not always be honored by ambulance services or doctors in hospitals. Ideally, you will have an advocate who is your healthcare proxy or surrogate for healthcare decisions – usually a loved one with a copy of your wishes in hand.
It is also wise to prepare a POLST Physician’s Order for Life Sustaining Treatment (California) or MOLST Medical Order for Life Sustaining Treatment(New York). This way your wishes will be registered on an electronic record should you land in a hospital.
What is usually included in a healthcare directive?
It is common to include a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate), DNI (Do Not Intubate), or DND (Do Not Donate) organs or your body. These are personal choices – saving and prolonging life at all costs or not, tubes or not, donating or not. It is also common to designate a healthcare proxy or surrogate for healthcare decisions as mentioned above, someone you trust to make decisions in the event you cannot.
A recent article on Huffington Post reported on a request some folks are now including, a DNH (Do Not Hospitalize). See link below for entire article.
I am currently in Mexico exploring senior care, palliative care, and end-of-life issues. The Do Not Hospitalize order got me thinking, even though I am in good health. So last week I updated my Mexican healthcare wishes because American and Canadian Advance Healthcare Directives are not recognized or honored if something happens in Mexico (or most of Latin America where Napoleonic code prevails, and not common law). I have a similar document for Ecuador. When anywhere outside the U.S. I carry a copy of my Five Wishes anyway.
Note: I am grateful to hospitals, one saved my life as I was not expected to survive my birth. In certain cases, such as extreme bleeding or falls, there may be no other option than a hospital. It would be wise to specify exceptions for hospitalization in your document if you decide to mention the preference. In my experience, most people in frail health want to be kept comfortable with palliative care at home, especially for their last days. In this circumstance, caregivers must know not to take you to a hospital.
Additional note: If you are traveling in Latin America, do not have health insurance with worldwide coverage, and are able to state your wishes cogently, and need hospital care, go to a public hospital. If you are accepted at a private hospital you will not be able to walk out the door unless every peso is paid.
An estimated 62% of Americans do not have an Advance Healthcare Directive.
I urge you to create your healthcare wishes if you haven’t already. I advise carrying a copy when traveling by air, train, or sea. Keep a copy handy in the glove compartment of your car … in case of emergency and for peace of mind.
http://capolst.org/ California Physician’s Order for Life Sustaining Treatment. You can download the pink form, fill it out, submit to your physician, who will in turn enter it into a statewide electronic system
The International Day of Older Adults is celebrated, by proclamation of the United Nations, on October 1 every year.
In Mexico this event dovetails with the country’s Senior Day at the end of September. Festivities are held at senior centers, senior homes, and on DIF (government social service) grounds.
For those of you who haven’t been to Mexico, especially Guadalajara, its “tapatio” residents love to sing and dance no matter their age. Being around these folks will automatically lift your spirits. They love to dress up, eat well, and have fun. Most of all, they never give up despite mobility issues or aches and pains.
In Mexico there are 7.5 million persons 70 or older. This number is expected to reach 8.5 million in 2020, and 10.2 million by 2030. According to the Mexican government, at 60 you are an older adult. It is unclear why the number of boomers and persons ages 60-70 are not included in the Mexican government statistics (INEGI) reports.
In the U.S. there are 70-80 million adults who will be over 65 by 2020.
Last year I attended an event at DIF’s Centro de Amistad Internacional (Center of International Friendship) on Calle Eulogio Parra 2539 just off Lopez Mateo in Guadalajara. It was co-hosted by the Office of Older Adults for the State of Jalisco, Mexico and by INAPAM ( the National Institute for Older Adults, est. in 2002). It was held on the first Sunday of October from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Groups of seniors performed dances, ladies were offered free beauty treatments by the Irma de Zuniga make-up academy located on Lopez Cotilla in downtown Guadalajara (www.irmadezuniga.com), there were talks by gerontologists, nutritionists and others experts. Jhre Chacon and his team of healing touch trainees from UNCOA offered massages, Reiki, and other relaxing experiences for the guests. There were also poetry readings and card games.
Ana Maria Luz Garcia, owner of the historic restaurant La Fonda de Arcangel Miguel (www.fondasanmiguelarcangel.com, housed in a colonial convent in the center of Guadalajara), hosted the buffet breakfast/brunch. Garcia is a passionate advocate for healthy living at any age.
Consuelo Manzo Chavez, Director of Older Adults for DIF presided with Alma Solis Montiel, who at the time was the Director of INAPAM but is now the Director General of the Institute for Older Adults for the State of Jalisco.
For those of you who haven’t seen it before, above is a photo of yours truly with Diosalinda. She led a terrible life of abuse by family before she was rescued by a home for abandoned seniors in Chordeleg, Ecuador four years ago. If I had funds, I would have adopted her. Such a gentle, loving, sensitive soul for all she endured.
Did you notice the Dios in the name Diosalinda? Dios = God in Spanish. At the end of her life she finally has peace, protection, and safety.
Please find below a link to my article at http://www.CuencaHighLife.com on how impoverished and abandoned elders are rescued in Ecuador. It is far from complete, but it is based on site visits to almost every province in the country.
This week Guadalajara, Mexico has seen senior centers, DIF (government social services), non-profits serving older adults, and private sector senior residences celebrating Mexico’s Day of the Older Adult, also referred to as Dia de los Abuelos (Day of the Grandparents). The occasion has been feted every August 28 since 1982.
Guadalajara’s parish of San Bernardo, a social justice block with a church serving 3,000 parishioners, houses a two floor senior home, Asilo Juan Pablo II, where festivities have been in full force. (The diocese also provides a school for Downs Syndrome children, a rehabilitation home for over 50 men, and a palliative care and hospice with 8 beds and outreach to 65 patients, Juntos Contra el Dolor). The Sr. Cura of the Church, Father Engelberto Polino Sanchez is the guardian for the community.
On Saturday, August 27, DIF sponsored a breakfast for the 52 male and female residents. On Sunday, August 28, Father Engelberto celebrated mass. Afterward, the older adults enjoyed a meal of pozole (a stew of vegetables, hominy, and pork) served with jamaica (a hibiscus drink), plus live Mexican music provided by an electric piano and a singer. Mexicans love festivities and the seniors at Asilo Juan Pablo II are no different. They were happy campers.
Below are photos commemorating those in support of older adults, as well as the appreciative seniors who live at Asilo Juan Pablo II. It is a Mexican custom for the older generation not to smile too quickly in photos. An exception, the charming church priests below with their energy of light…
Note: The Juan Pablo II home, a non-profit, is well run. There are challenges with raising funds and providing enough for the residents. The home survives successfully, none the less. Seniors with pensions pay for private or shared rooms. There are indigent seniors who have been rescued. One disabled man around the age of 50, was found in the streets and is living most contentedly at the assisted living, as mentioned in photo above.
The dedicated administrator Bertha C. Gonzalez offers a clean, efficient service with good standards for quality of life in Mexico, up to and including Mexican carino (kindness and care). She hand selects and supervises a team of nursing assistants and nurses, many of whom are sent by various schools to train at the home. Every day there is occupational therapy and some form of physical workout. Every other day there is entertainment, among other activities. Many residents are talented artists, handicrafts experts, and poets. The home is connected to the large church so that those in wheelchairs can attend services easily. Being Catholic is not a requirement for residency. The home is currently full. There is a waiting list.
The senior home has outreach to around 30 elders living in the neighborhood through its volunteer group Asilo en Salida. Mari, featured in the first photo, also goes out with the group. For more information about the activities write to firstname.lastname@example.org
Asilo Juan Pablo II Pro Dignidad Humana, AC email@example.com
Av. Plan de San Luis #1616 Col. Mezquitan Country tel. 3824-5368
Sr. Cura Engelberto Polino Sanchez, Director General
Bertha C. Gonzalez, Administrator Maria Delores Cortes, social worker
Not long ago I addressed a group of Canadians and Americans at an Open Circle chat at the Lake Chapala Society in Ajijic, Mexico. Most of the attendees were full-time residents with the lay of the land, but curious newcomers attended as well.
The most meaningful part of the presentation? Introducing American and Mexican senior living owners to the audience. After the chat they were able to become acquainted with one another.
In the photo below, four Mexican registered nurse owners are represented. I am the person holding the microphone.
If you cannot afford healthcare or retirement in Canada or the U.S., what are your options? Where do you look?
For the last five decades, and especially since the U.S. economic challenges that became apparent in 2007-2008, retirees have been choosing destinations in Asia, Europe, and Latin America.
Despite news about crime and drug cartels, Mexico reigns as the number one choice for most American and Canadians, primarily because of its lower costs, warmer weather, health care choices, and location so close to home.
According to U.S. Consulates in Mexico there is a current count of between 1.2 – 1.4 million Americans living in Baja California, Cancun, Lake Chapala, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, San Miguel Allende, and other areas. (The number also includes Americans who are not retired). According to the Canadian Consulate in Guadalajara and the Canadians Abroad Registry, approximately 10,000 Canadians are registered in high season and 1,500 are registered as retired full time in Mexico. Not all Canadians register.
Choices for senior living in Mexico are not all that dissimilar to those in Canada and the U.S.:
Aging in Place – independent living in your own home or apartment
Aging in Community – co-housing
Assisted Living – if you require care and cannot afford full-time care at home
Nursing Care and Rehabilitation
Currently, at Lake Chapala, Mexico there are in the neighborhood of 20,000 retired Americans and Canadians.
North shore Lake Chapala, which includes the communities of Ajijic, Chapala, Jocotepec, San Antonio, and San Juan Cosala (40 minutes drive time from one end of north shore to the other), has several options for senior living with others being planned.
What is different from Canada and the U.S. is the cost of living, especially for health care, often up to two-thirds less.
What is also different is that there are no Life Planning (continuing care) models at Lake Chapala. A project was planned three years ago and has yet to be built. There is one, however, that will open in Mexico City sometime this fall.
Another difference is that in Canada and the U.S. Alzheimer’s and dementia patients are in separate areas on a campus. In most of Mexico, dementia patients are living and sharing the same space with older adults who have mobility issues, not dementia issues, and the care is rarely specialized.
Mexican senior homes are under the purview of the Ministry of Public Health and local fire departments. They are not tightly regulated and inspected as they are in Canada and the U.S.
What is available at Lake Chapala now?
Three co-housing/independent living options – one in Ajijic with three individual apartments and five casitas, a pool, lakeside views, and two meals a day; one in Riberas del Pilar on two levels where residents have their own apartment, are provided with two meals a day, and have access to a library, a gym, and a pool; and one in San Juan Cosala, focusing on health, green living, and sustainability.
At the first two if you become immobile or develop serious health issues you would need to move. At the property in San Juan Cosala (in development) you can invite caregivers to your living quarters.
Three assisted living homes specializing in Alzheimer’s and dementia care – one is run by a geriatrician and a nurse, the other two by nurses with doctors on call. One of these homes plans to add a second home in the near future for a total of four dedicated Alzheimer’s care homes at the lake to meet the growing need.
Six homes combine assisted living, nursing and some rehabilitation.
That number climbs to seven if you include two rooms above the offices of a physician in Ajijic (no rehab), and 9 if you include one owner who has three homes (no rehab).
It climbs to 10 choices with an American-owned recovery care center for plastic surgery (more like a B & B) where you can also rent suites. The recovery center has been in existence for almost 20 years.
The total number of choices reaches 11 if you include a low-income senior home in Chapala which also has Mexican residents.
Four properties have owners who live on site. These properties are either American- or Canadian-owned, or, owned by English-speaking Mexicans who focus on serving the expat community. There usually is one person who speaks English at the senior living options at Lake Chapala.
The above-mentioned places are private pay. Monthly costs for private pay assisted living at Lake Chapala range between $1,000 and $2,000 U.S. per month except for the home in Chapala. (The average U.S. private pay is $3200-$3500, and up to $12,000/month or more for Alzheimer’s care).
Most care homes at the lake have 12 or fewer residents. Service is considered personalized. In many instances there is the quality of “carino,” caregivers treating you like a lovable member of the family.
There are 125 senior living homes in the state of Jalisco, housing 1,723 elders. These numbers include only Mexican citizens. Not included are Americans and Canadians at Lake Chapala or in Puerto Vallarta. There are approximately 758,000 older adults in Jalisco state.
In Guadalajara, an hour from Lake Chapala, there are three models of senior care – private pay, non-profit care primarily with nuns (usually excellent quality), and government care (usually DIF, a social services entity that exists throughout Mexico). Prices range from gratis for the indigent to around $400-$800 U.S. for those with pensions, and up to $3500 U.S. for private pay.
Note: I have met Americans with incomes of $600 or less/month who are living comfortably and safely in Mexican assisted living homes throughout the country.