Resources – Eldercare in Latin America

My family found a long-term-care solution for my elderly father in Peru, but we chose that country only because we happened to be living there when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s (2011). Peru shouldn’t necessarily be your first choice in Latin America. Countries such as Ecuador, Costa Rica, Mexico and Panama have large expat communities and are favored by North American retirees, partly because of the low cost of doctor’s visits, medicines and in-house help (housekeepers, nurses’ aides).

It’s relatively easy to research options about those countries (in contrast with Peru) because there are numerous English-language sites devoted to retiring in these destinations. And some of those sites provide information on assisted living, nursing care and dementia care.

Likewise, some U.S. news outlets are covering the growing trend of Americans seeking eldercare south of the border.

Here are some links that might be useful, broken down by country.

Costa Rica

About 50,000 Americans, most of them retirees, live in Costa Rica, says the US State Department. They’re drawn by the country’s political stability, its beautiful forests and beaches, and the low cost of its healthcare. Hiring in-home caregivers is also affordable.

“Assisted Living Communities,” CostaRica.com (6/24/2015). This web page profiles three assisted living centers in Costa Rica that cater to expats: Jose Pujol Marti Retirement Residence ($1,000/mo.), Pura Vida Life Care ($250,000 buy-in and $1,650/mo.); and Villa Alegria ($2,000 to $2,500/mo.).

“Costa Rica May Be a Health Care Solution for Non-Independent Retirees,” by Christopher Howard (Live in Costa Rica Blog, 5/31/12).

“Costa Rica welcomes new progressive retirement home,” by Robert Isenberg (Tico Times, 11/18/2013). Article on the grand opening of the Verdeza assisted-living facility in San José. This continuing-care facility bills itself as “the first residence of its kind” in Central America and contains 61 units ($2,350/mo.) with a special floor for dementia patients ($3,550/mo.). Emphasis is on expat care.

Discussion Forum: “Elder Care,” Costa Rica Expat Forum (ExpatExchange.com). Not much action on this site, but you could post a query there.

Ecuador

About 12,000 expats live in Ecuador, according to the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Discussion thread, Nursing Homes in Ecuador, Expat Exchange. A lively and candid exchange by expats, RNs and one doctor. Topics: the need for a will and a health care directive. One horror story of a “well known and highly advertised” nursing home (not named) contributing to the death of a commenter’s elderly relative.  On another discussion thread, one commenter advises against bringing a frail elder to Cuenca because of the altitude and parasites.

“Expats Caring for Elderly Parents in Cuenca: Advantages and Disadvantages” (DiscoverCuencaEcuador.com, 3/29/2013). An interesting blog post about expats retiring to Cuenca and bringing an aged parent with them. The author highlights the high quality of medical care, getting in-house nursing help, and the few disadvantages (lack of wheelchair accessibility on sidewalks and in buildings). Being on site to oversee a loved one’s care is key for success, according to this blogger.

“Latin America’s Top Healthcare Haven,” article by Kathleen Peddicord (U.S. News & World Report, 3/25/12). Peddicord profiles the city of Cuenca, a popular spot for expats and retirees in particular, and provides sample costs for mammograms, X-rays, EEGs and monthly private insurance (all extremely reasonable). She also touches on the subject of long-term care: “In [Cuenca] you will find good nursing home care at an affordable price. The total cost for a clean, professionally staffed facility where the residents are well cared for can be $450 per month, including 24-hour doctor and nurse attendance, food, laundry, personal care, and occupational or rehabilitative therapy.”

“Find Health in Ecuador as New Corporate Gold Members of the MTA,” press release by Gill Elliott, Medical Tourism Association blog (1/16/2014). Elliott cites a study from Bloomberg.com that ranks Ecuador in “the top 20 in the world for healthcare efficiency, reporting a per capita annual cost of only $332. In comparison, the U.S. ranks 45th with a per capita cost of $8,608.” The post goes on to detail costs for specific procedures, options for expats to get reasonable insurance in the country, and the low costs of drugs.

Mexico

Between 40,000 to 80,000 Americans have retired to Mexico, according to USA Today. Note that nursing homes are not regulated, but that hasn’t stopped some people from seeking care there.

Assisted Living and Nursing Care in Mexico, by Monica Rix Paxson (Mexperience, 9/3/2012). Rix Paxson, author of The English Speaker’s Guide to Medical Care in Mexico: “With costs for long-term care in the US running between $3000 and $7000 per month, the majority of Americans might 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 as part of the Affordable Care Act. Contrast this with $1000 to $1700 per month (typical fees) for assisted living and nursing care in Mexico. At these fee levels care is affordable to many more people, even those who may have to survive solely on Social Security benefits.”

Care Facilities in Mexico: page on RetireEarlyLifestyle that provides links to various care options, including independent living, convalescent care and assisted living. Includes phone numbers, addresses and, in some cases, cost break-downs.

Discussion thread, “Memory / Assisted Care Facilities / Homes Abroad,” Flyertalk (2012). The trip report of all trip reports: Poster tvl4free gives an exhaustive account of his/her journey to Mexico in May 2012 to find an affordable and up-to-standard facility for a family member with dementia. He/she says that “my requirements for a site visit were: 1. City must be easily reachable from the US; 2. Facility must be easily and quickly reached once at the local airport.” Tvl4free went to assisted living and memory care sites in Puerto Vallarta, Tijuana and Rosarito. Pictures and candid assessments.

Seniors Head South to Mexican Nursing Homes, by Chris Hawley (USA Today, 8/16/2007). This article provides an overview on why Americans are seeking long-term care south of the border, what the advantages and disadvantages are, and comparison costs for series (nursing home fees, homemaker/companion). He also details some of the rip-off schemes that retirees should avoid.

Why Foreign Retirees Are Flocking to Mexico (PBS New Hour, 7/6/15), a report on long-term care in Mexico by Kathleen McCleery.  Audio with transcript. McCleery reports that costs for independent living in Mexico average $1,000 a month for room, all utilities, cable and three prepared meals a day. Depending on the location, retirees don’t need to know Spanish.

Panama

According to one source, between 20,000 and 30,000 Americans and Canadians live in Panama. Costs in general are higher than those in Mexico, no doubt in response to the flood of foreign retirees.

Discussion Thread (Best Places in the World to Retire): “Can I get a good caregiver in Panama and what is the cost?” (late 2015). Members of the forum explain their experiences and detail costs.

Panama – Elderly Care (article in Expat Focus, no date). This article provides a very broad overview of what kind of services elders can pay for in Panama. For instance: “A good quality nursing home could cost several thousand dollars a month, depending upon the area that you are living in, and it should be noted that this type of care is generally not available in rural areas.” The article does not identify facilities by name or provide links.