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Assisted Living and Nursing Homes in the Lake Chapala area

Assisted Living in Lake Chapala 

By Kristina Morgan and Joelle Lau-Hansen 

Many Baby Boomers are going to experience a role reversal in caring for their aging parents and will need help to provide care for them.

Many people are moving south of the border for more than sunshine and a slower pace of living—they are coming to seek out assisted living or long-term care options that are at least half the cost of care north of the border.

The median cost for long-term care in the United States is $3,622.00 per month. That’s $43,472 USD per year and many states are significantly higher, according to the Genworth Financial 2009 Cost of Care Survey.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) estimates that about 70 percent of individuals over age 65 will require at least some type of long-term care services during their lifetime; and more than 40 percent will need care in a nursing home for some period of time. If you’re paying privately for such care, it will add up quickly—at an average of $120/day for assisted living and $240/day for nursing homes!


What about Medicare and Medicaid?Assisted Living in Mexico

Many people believe—wrongly—that Medicare will pay for long-term care. Medicare pays only for up to 100 days of skilled nursing care under very specific circumstances, following a hospital stay.

If you have an extremely low income and limited assets, and if you require a nursing home level of care, Medicaid may pay for care either in your home or in a nursing facility. But Medicaid does not pay for assisted living services if that is all that is needed.

The Health Care Reform is supposed to include an expansion of long-term care insurance, which should not only improve access to nursing homes but also in-home care in the U.S. but the details aren’t clear and it isn’t expected to go into effect until 2014.

Assisted Living and nursing homes in Mexico run roughly half—or less—than what you would pay north of the border and also includes three home-cooked meals a day. It is important to note that in Mexico the foods being used are whole and fresh. Convenience foods are expensive and not the norm so in an Assisted Living home in Mexico chances are you will be eating much better than you would have north of the border.

With Lake Chapala being one of the largest expat communities in the world, you might expect to seeJoelle LauHansen Assisted Living and long-term care here facilities here...and you would be right! At Focus on Mexico we are often asked what is available here in our community and during the Focus on Mexico program March 20-27, we had a chance to tour some of the homes. With us on the program that week was Joelle Lau-Hansen, who owns and operates an Assisted Living Facility in Venice, Florida, and has been in this business since 1994. She also does consulting for other homes. Since Joelle wanted to check out what Lake Chapala had to offer, I thought this was the perfect opportunity to get her professional opinion about the places we visited at Lake Chapala.

We visited four Assisted Living homes. Two were in Ajijic, one was in San Antonio and one was in Riberas Del Pilar. None of them were affiliated with any church, religion or political party. We were both impressed with what we saw.

Joelle says, “All facilities were very clean, the staff was attentive. Prices were much lower than in the US. I would not hesitate to place my parents in any of these facilities. In Mexico doctors make house calls, which is much better than to drag a sick elderly person to a waiting room! And with email, it is easy to get reports on the well-being of your loved ones, even if you travel a lot. Do not let fear of leaving your aging parents behind prevent you from moving to Mexico!”

There are other facilities that we did not have time to visit but here is a sampling of what is available here at Lake Chapala:


Abbeyfield Cottage ViewAbbeyfield

The first home we visited was Abbeyfield. Established in 2006, Abbeyfield Ajijic is the first Abbeyfield Home in Latin America. I had been there before when I attended a seminar on Fearless Aging. Abbeyfield is located in Ajijic on Privada Independencia #9, facing the malecon or boardwalk so there are beautiful lake views.

Abbeyfield was created in England in the 1950s as a non-profit independent-living home for men and women over age 65 who are still physically and mentally fit but no longer wish to live alone. Abbeyfield is run by a committee of volunteers and only the house manager, maid and gardener are paid employees. Abbeyfield Lap Pool 

Abbeyfield has a solar-heated lap pool, as well as a nice garden area. 

There are four suites in the main house that have a bedroom and bathroom and run $10,000 pesos, which at today’s exchange rate comes in at about $817 USD per month.

Abbeyfield has four private casitas that run $16,000 pesos a month or roughly $1300 USD and are small, private bungalows.

Joelle’s assessment: “Abbey Field is a gorgeous Independent Living Facility right on Lake Chapala. The bedrooms are comfortable, some bigger than others, some "cottage-like," meals are included in the monthly fee. The common areas are spacious and well appointed.

Abbeyfield also has opportunities for people who want to volunteer. If you would like more information, contact Brian Howard (or or call 376-766-2045 or cell (045) 331-705-1629 if you are local or visit their website at  


Residents at AliciasAlicia’s Nursing Home

Next, we went to Alicia’s Nursing Home. The largest facility in the Lake Chapala area, Alicia’s has three homes that offer assistance to the elderly on three levels: Assisted Living for nine residents, Middle-Care for nine more residents and Full-Care for eight residents. Alicia’s also offers end-of-life care. We visited the Assisted Living home located in La Floresta, a beautiful old neighborhood with a large, older home where Alejandro Mejilla, Alicia’s son welcomed us.

Alejandro says, “We want this to feel like their real home.” It works; the home does feel like a place where a family Alejandro Mejillalives. Several Mexican women greet me shyly as they chatter in Spanish in the kitchen cooking something that makes my mouth water. Alicia’s provides three full meals a day.

The price runs from $1200 a month or $14,400 per year for people who are independent, up to $1500 a month or $18,000 per year for people who need full-time care, such as Alzheimer’s or dementia patients.FOM Team member Kristina Morgan 

USA Today checked out assisted living homes at Lake Chapala and reported that for $1,300 a month—a quarter of what an average nursing home costs in Oregon—Jean Douglas gets a studio apartment, three meals a day, laundry and cleaning service, and 24-hour care from an attentive staff, many of whom speak English. She wakes up every morning next to a glimmering mountain lake, and the average annual high temperature is a toasty 79 degrees.

"It is paradise," says Douglas, 74. "If you need help living or coping, this is the place to be. I don't know that there is such a thing back (in the USA), and certainly not for this amount of money."

As a cultural side-note, Mejilla says they have been open for 18 years and in that time have only had three Mexicans live in the homes. In Mexican culture, the families typically care for their elderly but for people, who are aging north of the border, finding care as they age is a reality and thankfully, one that Mexico is prepared to meet.

Joelle adds, “Alicia's is very tastefully decorated and looks like a bed and breakfast, a far cry from an "institution!"

For more information about Alicia’s Homes, email: or call 376-766-3152 if you are local. You can also visit their website:

Shangri La Common GroundsShangri-La

Soon we were off to see Shangri-La, a retirement home located in San Antonio on two lush acres with a well-maintained swimming pool, views of the lake and mountains and a comfortable family home. Joannie and her husband Fernley are American who came to Lake Chapala and fell in love with the area. They have special training and experience in dealing with elderly with dementia.  

Joannie notes that there are not as many rules and regulations as there are in the U.S. She says, “Anyone with common sense, ability and compassion could do this. Shangri-La is not a skilled nursing facility. In order to call yourself a nursing home you have to have a nurse on staff 24/7.”

And though Shangri-La isn’t a skilled nursing facility, they provide three tiers of care and Shangri-La can also provide full-time nursing care for its residents, if needed.

Shangri-La is the smallest of the assisted living/retirement homes we visited with only four rooms, each with private bath. Right now they have three people there and there is an easy camaraderie among them. Joannie says, “We wanted to keep it small. This is a family unit.”

Joelle adds, “Joannie gave it a homey, country look with a very large outdoor area. She is a Pool area at Shangri Lahands-on person with a big heart.”

Shangri-La was unique in that they insist on an English-speaking staff, noting that their residents don’t speak Spanish and they also prepare a report every month to send back to family so they are kept in the loop.

Prices for independent care run $1350 USD and for full care the price is around $2600 USD depending on the individual’s needs.

To contact Joannie at Shangri-La on her U.S. VOiP phone line, call: 602-903-6296 or email her at or if you are local, dial 376-766-1359 or cell 331-171-9471.


Community Area at Casa NostraCasa Nostra Nursing Home

Casa Nostra Nursing Home was our last stop. Casa Nostra has been in operation for 17 years. Located in a residential area of Riberas del Pilar, Delia Villanueva and Antonio met us. Delia is the new owner of Casa Nostra since the original owner, Beverly Ward, now 82 and a resident at Casa Nostra himself, passed the business onto her. They have recently changed locations to a beautiful home with a lot of colorful murals and cheerful Mexican décor.  


Delia is mostly bilingual and Antonio, who showed us around the facilities, was quite charming and fully bilingual.

Tom Ramsey, 80, from Long Island, and a former school administrator chose to stay at Casa Nostra. Dining Room at Casa Nostra“I love it here. I'm 80 and in poor health and my wife has dementia. I had read advertisements about Casa Nostra. The facilities are really excellent and it's very quiet here.”

Tom lived on Long Island for 32 years and says, “I'm not going to go back to the U.S. I would have paid $20-$25,000 USD a month on Long Island for the same care I get here in Mexico.”

It’s as good if not better care than the health care in the U.S. I feel very comfortable here. What’s not to like here? I enjoy an excellent climate, accessible and competent health care, home-cooked meals, warm weather and friendly people.”

Casa Nostra offers three levels of care, as well as end-of-life care with a nurse on duty 24/7.  Monthly fees are $1400 USD to $1700 USD and include three meals a day, laundry service, maid service, and a doctor visit at least once a week or as often as needed. They have room for 12 to 14 residents and have a couple of small casitas, as well as private rooms within the main house and private areas outside.

Joelle adds, “There is an elevator for the convenience of the residents. I noticed in the nursing area that a resident had a hospital bed with full side rails, as well.”

Video surveillance system for patients with special needsCasa Nostra also had a video surveillance system in the rooms to make sure that every one is safe and secure for patients with higher needs.

They offer activities such as outings to the malecon or pier in Chapala, bingo and dominoes.

To contact Casa Nostra: or to call from a local phone: 765-3824

In short, we were both very impressed by what is available here at Lake Chapala in terms of assisted living and long-term care.

Joelle was a delight to spend the day with!

Joelle says, “I can't imagine considering a move to Mexico without attending a seminar with Focus on Mexico. They have the answers to your questions, bring professionals to daily classes, and they have resources. They become your friends and you keep in contact and you can come back anytime and sit in on the classes again for free. And I did not even mention the tremendous networking with your classmates and those who came before you! (They are called Alumni.) I am coming back this summer, see you there!”

“We’re all looking forward to seeing you here, Joelle!  


Kristina Morgan: Director of Public Relations for FocusOnMexico.  

To help you in making a choice, Focus On Mexico offers 8-Day Educational Programs to Ajijic and Lake Chapala, Mexico (2nd Best Climate in the World). Join us on a Focus program and learn why thousands of Americans and Canadians chose to retire in Lake Chapala.

Our programs offer the perfect balance; a wonderful vacation and an insightful, educational experience. Our expert speakers cover all topics: Health Care, Real Estate, Legal System, Immigration, Bringing Pets, Cost of Living, US Taxes for Americans, Non-Residency for Canadians, Living on the Lakeside, Investing in Mexico, Mexican Economy and much more...

You’ll get everything you need to help you decide if Lake Chapala, Mexico is the place for you, plus have a lot of fun doing it. Retiring in Mexico couldn't be better. 

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