Memory care, or residential care for persons with Alzheimer’s / dementia, has recently become available in Mexico and is largely geared towards Americans and Canadians instead of Mexican nationals. Even though there are not a lot of memory care / assisted living residences nationwide, you can find excellent care options. The comparable residential communities south of the border have one major advantage, they cost significantly less. Normally, the cost of memory care in Mexico is half or even one-third of the price for the same services in the United States. Most residences are located near the US-Mexico border, in expat communities or in the largest cities across Mexico.
Memory care residences provide group meals, medication management, assistance with the activities of daily living (such as bathing, grooming, and eating), and scheduled recreational activities. The staff has specialized training and the facilities are dementia friendly. This article focuses on residential memory care in Mexico from the perspective of an expatriate. The pros and cons are discussed along with insurance, cultural differences, locations, and costs.
Since each country has its own set of norms, it can be difficult to make care quality comparisons between Mexican and American memory care residences. The trend in Mexico is to follow the American style of eldercare where expatriates can find high levels of medical attention and support. The quality of care in memory care residences in Mexico that are catering to foreigners is on-par with the level of care quality provided in facilities abroad.
Until recently in Mexico, memory care did not exist. Persons with dementia did not reside in secured wings of a residence where staff has completed specialized training and the residence is designed to prevent wandering and self-injury. Instead, people with dementia or Alzheimer’s lived at home or together with those who are frail or elderly in assisted living residences. Memory care is now available in Mexico, even if it is a less common type.
Some of the largest differences in Mexico’s assisted living / memory care residences are their size and staff. The size of the residence can impact the quality of care. Most Mexican assisted living communities have fewer residents than their American counterparts. The average size community in the US has approximately 45 residents, while in Mexico 15 to 20 residents. That means that your loved one has the benefit of more personalized care. When residents receive more attention in smaller assisted living communities, they develop stronger relationships with their caregivers and more interaction with residents results in a higher quality of life.
Staff turnover is a challenge for American senior living communities. Because salaries are significantly lower in Mexico, residences are staffed with higher qualified medical professionals. That means it is normal for your loved one to be treated by in-house doctors and nurses. In comparison, most memory care residences in the United States cannot afford to have in-house doctors and those doctors most certainly do not provide day-to-day, hands-on care.
Currently, assisted living in Mexico costs approximately $1,000 to $2,000 per month with memory care averaging $2,500 monthly. Unlike the American model of assisted living where the costs tend to spiral upward as care needs increase, most Mexican residences charge a flat monthly fee regardless of care requirements. As of 2022, assisted living and memory care in the United States cost on average between $4,500 to $5,500 per month. However, this is the average, the coastal regions of the United States charge upwards of $8,000 per month.
These prices are for assisted living residences that are targeting Americans as their clients. There are less expensive options that cater to Mexican nationals costing as little as $500 to $1,000 monthly. In general, most Americans would not feel comfortable residing in these types of residences and want something with comparable accommodations and services to what they can find north of the border.
Medical insurance might be one of the biggest obstacles for patients who reside in residences in Mexico. No doctors, hospitals, or pharmacies in Mexico are authorized to accept Medicare or Medicaid as a form of payment. This can be less of an issue in the border cities, because returning to the US for medical treatment can be an easy trip, and family members can easily bring prescription medications to the residence. This becomes a challenge for the cities deeper within Mexico, where returning to the US is not a short trip.
There are several ways Mexican assisted living residences address this challenge. As mentioned before, many residences have a medical doctor on staff and appointments may even be included in the monthly costs. For minor illnesses and prescriptions, this is usually sufficient. Another option available is for residents to buy health insurance in Mexico. This can be an affordable option. Generally, one might expect to pay close to what they are spending in the US for Medicare Supplement Insurance policies (Medigap policies). Travel insurance policies are another option that can be purchased and used to cover the cost of any emergency medical travel back to the US.
Medicare is health insurance offered by the federal government mostly for people over 65. It offers a wide range of medical care benefits. However, Medicare does not cover assisted living or memory care costs in the United States or Mexico. Medical care is covered but the vast majority of care received by persons with dementia is not medical in nature.
Medicaid is health insurance for low-income Americans of all ages. To qualify for Medicaid you must have your monthly income and countable assets below a certain amount. These numbers differ depending on the state you live in because Medicaid is a state-run program. While in some states Medicaid will cover the care costs for persons in assisted living / memory care, in no state is Medicaid allowed to pay for the room and board costs which are estimated at 50% of the total cost for memory care. Medicaid funded memory care is further limited by wait-lists. Unlike Medicaid coverage in nursing home, Medicaid coverage in assisted living / memory care is not an entitlement.
Medicare Advantage Plans
Medicare Advantage (also known as Medicare Part C) includes all the services offered by Medicare, but with added coverage to the original Medicare benefits providing a wider range of emergency services and coverage for vision, hearing, and dental needs. Medicare Advantage is provided through Medicare by a private insurer working with the government. Advantage Medicare Plans have the same geographical restrictions as Medicare. This type of health insurance is meant to be used inside the United States, not covering medical expenses in Mexico.
Typically, one might assume the largest issue with moving into a memory care community in Mexico would be a communication problem. Residents and staff are normally fluent or native English speakers. Everyone working in the medical community who interacts with patients speaks English. This means that administrators, nurses, and doctors can easily communicate with your loved one. The other residents are very likely to all speak English as their first language, enabling more socialization and peer interaction. Keep in mind that the custodial and cleaning staff may not speak English as well.
A key factor to keep in mind is that these residences are targeting Americans and other foreigners as their clientele. However. should the potential resident not be at all familiar with life in Mexico, there are bound to be some cultural differences. While most of the cultural differences are subtle, people with Alzheimer’s or dementia may be less likely to adjust to these differences as their short-term memory is impacted by their condition. With this in mind, there is a large effort demonstrated to not make the experience culturally jarring for the clients. One example can be food. While traditional Mexican cuisine may be served, the classic spices are toned down and alternatives are available to suit everyone’s tastes. Another difference can be recreational activities done outside of the residence. Because residents of assisted living communities are likely to be other Americans or Canadians it makes most residents feel comfortable in their surroundings.
Memory care residences are located in cities and communities that have large populations of Americans and Canadians or they are found close to the southern US border with Mexico frequently just across the border from California, Arizona and Texas.
Throughout central and coastal Mexico there are communities in which large numbers of American and Canadian retirees reside. Memory care residences have opened in these locations to serve those retirees with diminished capacities or the elderly parents of recent retirees. Cities like Puerto Vallarta, San Miguel de Allende, Ajijic, Lake Chapala, and Cabo San Lucas have large numbers of American expats and have memory care residences. Additionally, memory care can be found in major cities throughout the country. The top memory care residences in Mexico are:
|Memory Care / Assisted Living Residences in Mexico (Updated Mar. 2023)|
|La Pueblita||Ajijic, Jalisco||A full-service American -Style assisted living community with different levels of care options.|
|Ballesol Mexico||Queretaro||An assisted living facility with English-speaking staff and lots of amenities about 2 hours from Mexico City.|
|Bellmont Village||Mexico City||Is A US-based company with its first assisted living residence in Mexico. Many services are offered from adult day care to specialized memory care.|
|Serena||Tijuana & Rosarito Beach, Baja California||This care facility specializes in memory care that is close to the border with 3 locations and differing care levels from adult day care to memory care.|
|Casa Elite||Merida, Yucatan||Offers many different levels of care by English-speaking staff about 4 hours from Cancun.|
|Villa Plata||Guadalajara, Jalisco||Offers a specialized memory care unit in the nation’s second-biggest city.|
|Talita||Mexico City||Specializes in Alzheimer’s and dementia care by offering nursing home services, assisted living, and adult daycare.|
Memory care in Mexico for expats has many advantages and some disadvantages. Finding the best housing and care solution for your loved one is not easy. There is a lot to take into account. That means balancing everything from medical needs to budget, location, and the quality of life of your loved one. This is a major decision and should be decided early so you have the most amount of time to make an informed decision while including your loved one.
– Budget-friendly. Care in Mexico is considerably cheaper than in the US. In general, you can find care costs being a third to half the price that you can find in the United States.
– More qualified medical staff. Because of the large difference in salaries between the US and Mexico, it is the norm to find in-house doctors and nurses in memory care facilities in Mexico.
– Size. Residences are generally smaller and offer a lower patient-to-caregiver ratio. This helps in forming relationships and more individualized care.
– Culture. Culturally, Mexicans take care of the elderly. That means those in need, particularly the elderly, need special attention and respect.
– Location. This might not be the most convenient for families. A move to Mexico does require relocation, it can be further away from other family members and friends.
– Lack of American insurance accepted. For most insurance carriers, there is no coverage for non-emergency medical services outside the United States.