Assisted living facilities are a relatively new concept to Mexico and mostly confined to highly concentrated expat areas. You can find private nursing homes in places like Ajijic, Lake Chapala or Puerto Vallarta in Jalisco. San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato in the interior of the country is another expat haven. Along the US/Mexican border, the states of Chihuahua and Baja Norte are just a short drive from San Diego and El Paso, making them areas of high demand for American citizens looking to reduce their expenses when it comes time to find a place for mom and pop.
Casa Hogar para Ancianos (nursing homes for the eldery), asilos (asylums) and casas de adulto mayores (homes for older adults), are not as common outside of these expat areas. Although small towns often have at least one, usually run by the Catholic church, it may not meet the minimum standards you feel comfortable with. However, there are several other options available if you need assistance in caring for elderly loved ones in rural Mexico.
Mexicans often live in intergenerational homes, designed to accommodate parents, children, grandparents and even great-grandparents. It’s not uncommon to find homes with separate mother-in-law casitas or a suite of rooms separate from the main house.
If your elderly relative prefers to remain independent as long as possible, there are ways to accommodate that as well. It’s customary for even the middle class to hire a cleaning lady that comes several times a week. She often takes charge of shopping and simple meal preparation for the elderly in her charge as well. Many grocery stores offer delivery service, even in rural areas, making it easier for someone up in years to keep stocked up. Fruit and vegetables trucks come right to your doorstep once a week in many rural areas. Potable water and cooking gas is delivered in the same manner.
Even when the elderly are living independently, there are very few elderly that have been completely abandoned. For example, Mama Sofia and her husband Tio Felipe lived in their own home in Cerano while Tio Felipe’s great nephew’s wife and daughter came by once a day to bring them hot meals and check on them. They lived there until Tio Felipe died at 98, then Mama Sofia’s daughter took her to live with her in Zamora, Michoacan where she died a few years later at 97.
In our town, there is an elderly couple that makes the rounds of the local businesses every morning. They are in the bottom right of the picture above. The husband is 102 years old and his wife a mere 80. She is a bit impatient with his slow gait and often is several feet ahead of him on the walk to town. They stop at a place that has coffee for a cup each, then they stop and receive 5 pesos of tortillas from my sister-in-law’s tortilleria. After that, they pass by the carniceria for some carnitas. I’m not sure of the other places they stop. All of these small businesses give them this little bit without charge. Small towns tend to take care of their own.
In rural Mexico, the elderly often are active in the community while many senior citizens continue to work out of necessity. Our neighbor Doña Oliva is 75 and each morning she has pickled pig feet, bunuelos and other food items for sale. You can see her stand in the top right of the picture above.
Our other neighbor down below, Don Alfonso rode his bike 2 miles to tend to animals he kept in La Yacata. He is now 98 and for the last six months has been unable to make the trip, now assigned to his grandson.
My own father-in-law is 76 and bikes daily to town to pick up some pan y leche and dog food for his two four-footed companions. His mid-day meal is prepared by his daugher T and delivered by his son B. We try and keep an eye on him as well, but he doesn’t much like hovering and sometimes heads down the opposite road so we can’t keep track of his comings and goings as well as we would like.
When you need more help with those that have medical issues, full-time caretakers and even trained nurses can be hired. You may need to spend some time finding just the right person for the job however. Some families have opted to rent a small house and have caretakers look in on their elderly family members periodically. Others have chosen to have a live-in caretaker assume full responsibility 24/7. Mexican culture reveres those that have reached “la tercer edad” (the third age) and caring for senior citizens is not looked upon as a burden by most.
How have you found elder care in rural Mexico?