Assisted Living Mexico, Ex-pats in Mexico, Mexico Senior Living, Nursing Homes Mexico, Senior Care Mexico

Assisted Living Homes at Lake Chapala, Mexico Brace for COVID-19

Taking care of frail or gently infirm older adults, even in “good” times, is a challenging job. For many of us in senior care it is also a satisfying way to serve, and offers rewarding engagement.

But how does one rally to protect and defend older adults living in senior communities from COVID-19, the newest corona respiratory virus with multiple symptoms and possibly an unmerciful death, perhaps alone?

Precious American senior at a Lake Chapala assisted living home offering love to a little crab

Medical experts and tragic statistics share that older adults are more vulnerable than others to this borderless virus. A recent New York Times article reports an estimated one-fifth of U.S. deaths are linked to nursing facilities often due to inadequate protection and/or compensation for staff who sometimes work in more than one building to financially survive.

COVID-19 is now in Mexico. It flowed from Asia to Europe and the U.S. first. As of April 18, 958 Mexicans over age 60 have been hospitalized and 160 have required intensive care, representing 37% of the population. (No number is known from senior homes if any, but most patients had underlying health conditions).

Inspired by the response of healthcare workers around the world and despite distressing international and local news, all hands are on deck at approximately 25 assisted living/”nursing” homes at Lake Chapala, Mexico, one hour south of Mexico’s second largest city Guadalajara.  Residents are ex-pat and Mexican retirees and do not represent typical populations in other parts of the country.

Garden area, assisted living, Riberas del Pilar, Lake Chapala, Mexico

Important note: In Mexico, there are no nursing homes as they are defined north of the border. Acute care is in hospitals only. Assisted living homes offer some nursing care and rehab. There is more or less a one size fits all approach to senior care in Jalisco state and the rest of Mexico, with exceptions.

Shelter-in-place began March 19, the date of the first confirmed case in Guadalajara. Since then I’ve been engaged by phone and e-mail with home owners and staff where I have found appropriate care for “gringos”.  I am also in touch with precious residents via phone, e-mail, and sometimes Skype.

The virus has probably been present at Lake Chapala far longer than April 22, the date of the first reported but yet to be confirmed COVID-19 case locally.  Why? Because the lake is a major destination for American, Canadian, and European retirees and/or residents who travel extensively.

What protocols have been in place at assisting living/”nursing homes” since mid-March?

First, no visitors allowed, until further notice.

Each lakeside home (4 to 20 residents, owned by Mexicans or ex-pats) is doing what it can to adhere to guidelines from Jalisco Governor Enrique Alfaro and his Ministry of Health, as well as to those of the World Health Organization (WHO). In a land not known for high health standards and cleanliness, and where compliance for the greater good is not the norm, it is impressive what this virus has prompted at assisted living/”nursing homes”.

Restful Assisted Living grounds in San Juan Cosala overlooking Lake Chapala

Hand washing for all, several times. Hand sanitizers at all entry ways.

Hand sanitizer on mini-tables outside every room for doctors, nurses, caregivers, and residents.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as masks and gloves are provided for staff and residents, including masks for sitting in outside garden areas. These items are in regular supply. This is unusual as hospitals countrywide do not have enough PPE. Outside China, Mexico is the largest manufacturer of PPE. Mexico, ironically, sent a majority of its supplies to help China months ago. There is a cottage industry in every lakeside village making cotton double fabric washable masks at reasonable cost. Not the same as N-95 masks which are intended to be disposed after each use in clinical settings and are a challenge to clean. Home-made masks are, however, a helpful alternative.

Staff has stopped wearing scrubs on their way to work.

Rooms for staff to change from street clothes to scrubs have been created. Some places had these areas before with private lockers included.

Washing machines are going all day with resident clothing and staff clothing.

Staff stopped wearing scrubs to work based on hospital doctors and nurses being assaulted with bleach, hot coffee, eggs, or beatings because scrubs identify them with the virus. From Guadalajara to Merida healthcare worker abuse incidents have been markedly on the rise. Some essential workers have been prevented from entering their apartments or evicted by landlords who fear contagion. In one city, hospital workers now live in a hotel. See The Guardian article at end for more details.

Daily disinfection multiple times of door handles, railings, ground walkways

Double the work keeping dementia care residents safe

Food for kitchens now delivered to entry gates, fewer trips out

Meals served in rooms. Disposable utensils instead of flatware.

So far, no staff shortages and no cases as of this writing. Staff is showing up, fear or not. This could change if the infection takes hold. The majority of healthcare workers are young and have families.

One building picks up all staff for work so they do not travel by bus. The ideal situation, though not possible in most places, is having staff live on campus for the duration of the outbreak. Hogar Miguel Leon, a senior home housing 30 residents in Cuenca, Ecuador, for example, has outside staff living with the nurse nuns who are in charge.

Most homes, despite the added work load for prevention and preparation, are addressing isolation and possible loneliness issues of their residents. Volunteer visitors, outside entertainment, and chair yoga teachers on campus are no longer present. There is instead accelerated collaboration with faith communities, the Lake Chapala Society, other service groups, and individuals providing phone trees and Zoom chats. Adopt-a-Senior is happening. Facebook provides various resource guides for COVID-19 and delivery services on lakeside group pages. Example: one home orders to-go lunches which are delivered by a restaurant every Friday.

Assisted living for abandoned Mexican women near Jocotopec, Lake Chapala. An extraordinary volunteer service is offered by ex-pats.

Technology. There is a sudden rise in Facetime and Skype use. Zoom conferencing has been implemented and used for daily or weekly news and events. For those who are cogent, this technology is happily received.  For the most part, there are not so many innovations for dementia residents. No one has mentioned the use of telemedicine which is on the rise in the U.S.

Culture.  In Mexico, life works depending on who you know. Owners and staff network for support with family, friends, and colleagues for solutions – Facebook reigns.

As mentioned, the majority of homes at Lake Chapala implemented public health advice promptly and with uncommon vigor.

But will the rest of the community outside these homes rally for COVID-19 and honor quarantine and face mask measures?

Is there a way to prevent unprecedented loss of life in assisted living at Lake Chapala?

Senior living homes may not be able to prevent outbreaks, but they are working on delaying them. They are taking known measures to protect vulnerable populations and staff. But the variables are many and luck is required. As in the U.S., testing is slow to arrive.

And, the virus is invisible, so prevention may be an impossible task. Staff could unwittingly be silent carriers. Local quarantines are suggested and are not enforced. Mexicans enjoy gathering in large groups, no matter what, even when they’ve been asked not to.

The song Ay Yay, Yay Yay… Canta, No Llores comes to mind for Mexico in the time of COVID-19. Sing, Don’t Cry, continue on. The words represent a mindset for suffering and profoundly sad situations which the majority of the population has endured for five centuries. The country is rich in resources. Few are well-to-do. The rest struggle to put food on the table. Singing is a way to continue every day.

In closing, gratitude to all Mexican healthcare and essential workers, unsung heroes and heroines. Thank you for your presence. You demonstrate tremendous strength and courage. May you and those you care for be protected in the days ahead.

Final note: The majority of older adults in Mexico cannot afford healthcare, let alone assisted living or in-home care. The majority of assisted living/”nursing home” residents at Lake Chapala are ex-pats, even though there are a number of Mexican residents. Each home has private rooms and baths, few have shared rooms, What’s available at the lake is not typical of the rest of Mexico where almost 900 senior homes are generally more crowded and contagion more likely.

 

Wendy Jane Carrel, MA, is a Spanish-speaking senior care specialist and consultant 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.

 

You have permission to re-post the article when you include author’s name, biography, and contact information as above.

© Wendy Jane Carrel, 2020

Resources:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/23/mexico-health-workers-attacked-covid-19-fears  Mexican healthcare workers being attacked throughout the country

https://medium.com/@richardensor_50805/a-chat-with-mexicos-coronavirus-czar-e2117a3a4757  Economist reporter interviews Mexican Deputy Minister of Health Hugo López-Gatell April 5, 2020, excellent overview of the public health situation

https://mexiconewsdaily.com/news/coronavirus/40-of-seniors-have-survived-covid-19-without-hospitalization/  Mexican seniors who have survived

https://www.bestoflakechapala.com/lake-chapala-steps-up-a-covid-19-resource-guide/

https://www.seniorlivingforesight.net/life-after-covid-19-technologys-starring-role-in-affordable-senior-housing/   technology is making a positive difference for quality of life and care in places where it is affordable and can be implemented

www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-canada-seniors/we-are-failing-our-grandparents-canadas-trudeau-says-as-covid-19-hammers-nursing-homes-idUSKCN2253I6  Canadian nursing home situation

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/17/us/coronavirus-nursing-homes.html  about a fifth of U.S. virus deaths are linked to nursing facilities

https://ktla.com/news/california/socal-nursing-homes-among-hardest-hit-in-covid-19-outbreak/  list of CA nursing homes affected by virus…. 70%% of deaths in Long Beach.    April 20, 2020

https://www.helpage.org/guidelines-for-care-homes-for-older-people-in-the-context-of-coronavirus-covid19/  Help Age International guidelines for care homes

Assisted Living Mexico, CCRC's in Mexico, Life Plan Communities Mexico, Mexico Senior Living, Nursing Homes Mexico

Wendy Jane Carrel Speaks to American Retirees About Senior Care and Senior Housing in Mexico

Wendy Jane Carrel will address a group of American retirees about senior care and senior living options in Mexico at Focus on Mexico, Thursday, February 27 in Ajijic, Mexico. (Ajijic is a village with a population of around 10,000 at Lake Chapala, one hour south of Guadalajara, the country’s second largest city).

Her talk will cover Mexican senior care models (including those owned by Americans, Canadians, and other foreigners), and senior care options in expat retirement havens around a country often better known for its tequila, tamales, and mariachi.

See https://focusonmexico.com/focus-6-day-program/ for more details.

Carrel recently wrote an article about corporate senior living developments in Mexico that was posted on Senior Living Foresight, a popular senior housing news site in the U.S. The link to the article is below.

https://www.seniorlivingforesight.net/mexican-assisted-living-and-life-plan-communities-of-80-residents-set-to-attract-american-canadian-and-other-retirees/

 

 

Wendy Jane Carrel, MA, is a Spanish-speaking senior care specialist and consultant 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.

 

Aging, Assisted Living Mexico, CCRC's in Mexico, Death in Mexico, Dying in Mexico, End-of-Life Planning, Expats, Life Plan Communities Mexico, Mexico, Nursing Homes Mexico, Senior Care Mexico

Senior Care Specialist for Mexico Talks about Assisted Living & Nursing Care in Mexico, and Why End-of-Life Planning for Ex-pats is a Good Idea

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.

Veladoras for Guadalupe and those we’ve lost, Mexico City Cathedral

Here below are links to articles I have written on the above-referenced subjects:

https://wellnessshepherd.com/2018/09/11/why-creating-an-end-of-life-plan-for-expats-in-mexico-is-a-good-idea/ 

https://www.seniorhousingforum.net/blog/2016/8/3/will-mexico-solve-senior-living-affordability-problem   

https://wellnessshepherd.com/2017/10/10/guidelines-for-choosing-assisted-livingnursing-care-in-mexico/

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.

 

 

 

 

Assisted Living Mexico, Health & Wellness, Living Abroad, Mexico, Mexico Senior Living, Nursing Homes Mexico, Senior Care Mexico

Wendy Jane Carrel Speaks on Mexican Assisted Living, Nursing Care at Focus on Mexico

Throughout 2018, I have been invited to address Focus on Mexico participants, a lively and engaged group of mostly retirees from Canada and the U.S. curious about Mexico, curious enough to perhaps make a move.

I talk about senior living options, including possibilities at Lake Chapala.

I share a power point presentation with a few statistics and show photographs based on several years of due diligence and relationship building in 16 states of the country. I review independent living, assisted living, and nursing care – what’s here, what the differences are from home, what’s missing, and what is being created for the next generation that may be in need – boomers.

My VOLUNTEER talk shares an insider’s view for those who wish to consider living south-of-the-border. Other speakers focus on real estate, banking, buying cars, health insurance, medical care, bringing pets, etc.

My next talk is the week of October 29, 2018.

Wendy Jane Carrel with Michael Nuschke, Director of Focus on Mexico, addressing participants

If you are interested to learn about Focus seminars and activities, please see their web site at http://www.FocusonMexico.com. The popular education group is celebrating its 20th year.

Note: My articles are posted on http://www.WellnessShepherd.com. Sometimes they are re-posted on other web sites. If an article does not have my by-line, it is not by me. And, I do not post lists.

Some folks with good intentions, but without senior care experience and/or education, write articles and create lists with recommendations. Unless they are health care professionals, they may not be conversant with possible challenges of moving older adults from one nation to another, where the staff turnover is high, how the staff is trained, how med management is handled, what the activities are, and other subjects related to quality of life.