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The Cheaper Alternative to U.S. Long-Term Care

Saturday - 7/6/2013, 2:30pm  ET

Just recently we encountered two troubling personal stories reflecting the costs involved in caring for loved ones who are aged or in need of medical management or assisted living.

The first was a woman whose husband has Alzheimer's. Susan "signed over" their home to a continuous care facility in the U.S. in payment for her husband's health needs, and she moved into a smaller place that she can afford on her own. Not only is she losing her husband to the illness of Alzheimer's, she has lost the home they shared together for years. Susan saw no other financial alternative.

The second was a loving son who is taking care of his 85-year-old mother and has been doing so for some time. Tom wrote to us concerned about the daunting $7,000-per-month cost of a nursing home in his state, and was afraid of losing his only residence in order to pay for it. Though he'd been self-employed in the past, that business dried up when the caring of his mother took so much of his time that he could no longer pursue business leads. He was looking to relocate to another country just so he could afford the care his mother needed.

In the past we have written about the costs of continuous care in the States and compared these costs to options available in the Chapala Lakeside area in Mexico. I promised that I'd look into individual locations here to give you a better idea of what your money would buy. Here's what I've found.

Alicia's Convalescent Complex. Source: Author.

Price for service
I decided to tour family-run Alicia's Convalescent Complex first because it is one of the biggest here at the lake.

Alicia is a nurse and worked in Guadalajara for 10 years until circumstances prompted her to open her own convalescent care home. That was 20 years ago, and today, together with her husband, son, daughter, and son-in-law, the family owns five different care facilities. Four of them are located on the same street in La Floresta, and one is on the west side of Ajijic.

Bedroom at Alicia's Complex. Source: Author.

The monthly price of US$1,200 to $1,500 is determined by the size of the room you choose, and includes three meals a day, laundry service, daily room cleaning, WiFi throughout the homes, Vonage VOIP service to call relatives and friends, and cable TV with programs in English. Most rooms have their own private bath, but if a particular room does not, then a port-a-potty is wheeled in for nightly convenience.

Special personal attention is also given, such as help in bathing, should that be necessary. If you would like to meet friends for lunch, go to the theater in the evening, have a hair appointment at the beauty shop, or visit your doctor, all of this local transport is included in the monthly price.

Extra costs are charged for the adult diapers one might need as well as any personalized medicines, and of course, you must pay for your own doctor visits. Bills for these added services are itemized and sent via email at the end of each month. If you do not have a relationship with any local doctors, Alicia and her family work with many of them and will set this up for you. If you would like a more detailed assessment of how your loved one is doing, you may arrange for this service.

Payment for residency in one of Alicia's homes is made in advance monthly through one of their U.S.-based bank accounts, or the money may be wired directly to Mexico. If your family is also living in Mexico, they may arrange to drop off a personal check at the complex or pay at a local bank.

Sitting room at Alicia's Complex. Source: Author.

Levels of care
Alicia's complex consists of renovated personal houses, and will give you the feeling of living in a real home, not a faceless institution. Emphasis is on personalized care, and when I toured the facilities with Alejandro, he knew everyone by name.

Alicia offers three levels of care, depending on your needs. Assisted living is for those who are ambulatory and reasonably healthy but would like assistance in daily tasks like cooking meals, need a driver to get around, and want the assurance that should you fall or need help in any way, a staff of nurses and maids is in the home 24 hours a day.

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