If you’re reading this, you may be facing the terrifying predicament my husband and I found ourselves in in 2011: My elderly father had just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and we had very little money to cover the gap between his monthly pension and what he would need for long-term care. To put it bluntly, we were scared out of our wits.
So we came up with an unorthodox solution: We moved my father from northern Florida to Lima, Peru, and cared for him there. Yes, Peru, South America.
He lived in Peru’s historic capital for sixteen months, until his death in July 2012, and he got excellent, personalized care that far surpassed anything he could have gotten in the United States.
In other posts, I’ll get into how and why we chose Lima (we were living there at the time). What most people want to know first are the numbers, so here they are.
For the first eight months, when my father shared a house with us in Lima, we paid approximately US$670 a month for round-the-clock care by two licensed home-health aides. On top of that, we hired for a daily housekeeper/cook who cleaned and prepared meals for the health aides and my father (about $300/month). That brought his monthly care costs to less than US$1,000 for personalized, hands-on care 24/7. It was an incredible value, and we feel so fortunate, to this day, that we were able to provide him with that.
My father’s medical costs were not covered by his US health-insurance plans and Medicare, so we had to figure out another solution. Fortunately medical services in Peru are very affordable, compared to those in the United States, so we ended up paying cash for everything. His geriatrician and neurologist made house calls; their original consultations cost US$72 and US$80, respectively, and follow-up visits were about half that. They prescribed medicines and worked in tandem to ensure that my father wasn’t being overmedicated and to avoid negative drug interactions. My father took South American versions of the drugs that he had been taking in the U.S., for a total of about $100 a month; he was also on the Excelon patch, which didn’t have a generic at the time, so we had to shell out about US$100 for a 45-day supply. (Excelon has since become available as a generic in Peru). Medical emergencies, such as his falling and hitting his head in November 2011, added on expenses, of course—typically in the $200 to $300 range at a nearby hospital, Clinica Good Hope. Overall, he got very good, professional care and treatment.
Similarly, when we had to move my father to a nursing home at the end of 2011, the costs were also very reasonable. His own geriatrician ran a small group home for dementia patients (twenty residents in all) in the upscale district of San Isidro (see photo above), and it took only a month for my father to get a private room there.
His room, three home-cooked meals a day and laundry services cost US$850 a month; his two private health aides were, combined, about US$500 a month. The nursing home had a head nurse on site and was overseen by a geriatrician/owner who made rounds of the patients each morning. In the end we were paying about $1,350 a month ($15,600 a year) for food, board, laundry, and medical services.
Anyone who’s had to navigate the healthcare system for Alzheimer’s patients in the United States knows how extraordinary these figures are. I am sure that costs have gone up since 2012, and when I do some research, I’ll post with current figures, so you can see how much (or how little) costs have shifted.
The bottom line: It is possible to get excellent eldercare outside of the United States, if you do research and are open to doing things differently.