When I retired to Huatulco seven years ago, I was healthy and excited to do all the wonderful outdoor things this area offers. I am a lifelong swimmer and cyclist, a walker of dogs and I love to explore!
And that all worked well for several years.
But this past year, age and arthritis caught up with me. I took several falls and injured vertebrae in my spine. In the process of getting that diagnosed, I learned of other issues my poor system decided to toss into the mix. The result is that I am in a wheelchair waiting for a surgery to repair my vertebrae and get me back on my feet.
I am an independent woman. It is hard for me to ask for help but suddenly I needed to learn. My new reality has caused me to explore the support systems in our area for people with medical and personal handicaps. And since my journey began, I have had other people contact me with questions about how they can live here with disabilities…short or long term. I now know it is perfectly possible and financially reasonable!
A Healthy Support System
In the United States and Canada, we are used to supportive systems that include Meals on Wheels, Visiting Nurses, Assisted Living Centers, etc. Those don’t exist in Mexico in the same way. But….they do exist in a Mexican way! I am learning this personally.
At the start, it was confusing to me but basically, I needed two things: someone to help with everyday living and someone to help me with medical needs. Through community recommendations, I found both.
Shanyra Melissa Garcia Tovilla (Melissa) is my personal helper and Dr. Jorge Mendoza is my medical doctor. Both speak great English. I also arranged for other medical services at the Oromed Clinic near me. And, luckily for my back, a new tomography clinic is relocating here (more on that in another article).
The first thing I needed was a new place to live. I loved my original Mexican house, but it was not at all wheelchair accessible. So, Melissa found a smaller, open plan, ground floor apartment that I could easily navigate. And she supervised both the packing and the move.
She has nursing training, is trustworthy and has an understanding and empathetic nature. This is so important because, for me, it has been difficult to make the transition from totally independent to almost totally dependent! But with her support and help, I am learning.
She takes me shopping, helps with my laundry and any cleaning or work around my apartment that I cannot reach. She is my physical therapist, translator and negotiator. I only need to ask, and she is there for me.
Melissa works with Dr. Mendoza who comes to my house as needed. Together the three of us discuss any therapies, medications, or symptoms I have and how we will proceed. If I need care that cannot be managed at home, they will make sure I get to the proper laboratory or clinic. Dr. Mendoza will consult with my northern doctors for the future surgery to be sure I am ready and have appropriate pre-surgery care.
How much does it cost?
As for the financial end of things, Melissa and I negotiate her pay as my needs change. At first, I needed much more of her time; but as time has gone on, I am learning to be more independent. The doctor has very reasonable charges, does simple lab tests, and often gets me medicine that is not available locally. In general, I have found that this modified support system is much less costly than I experienced in the United States! I feel very comfortable with the skill levels and prices.
Both Melissa and Dr. Mendoza have been advising me of the proper precautions concerning Covid and they arranged for my vaccination when the time came.
I found a woman who loves to cook and she brings me meals that I can warm up. But there are many restaurants that deliver delicious meals, especially since the Covid restrictions began. You will find the prices are more than reasonable! Here is a listing of Huatulco's food delivery options.
Taxis will accommodate your needs, dog walkers will make sure your pups get their exercise, and the congenial neighbors here in Mexico pitch in to help, too.
There is another bonus. Mexico’s DIF family support system has created a handicapped accessible beach – Playa La Entrega. There are special chairs. They take you across the sand to a roped area of the beach. You can either float on the chair or slide off to swim and exercise in the water. It is safe, easy and free.
How To Advice
Here are my top pieces of advice for living in Mexico with physical challenges.
How To Advice for Living in Mexico with Physical Challenges
- Use your expat network. If you don't have one yet, don't hesitate to reach out. Almost every city and town has at least one expat Facebook group like these from Huatulco: “BAHIA DE HUATULCO EXPATS” or “HUATULCO – WHAT'S UP … HAPPENING COMMUNITY NEWS”. Search Facebook or the internet for expats in the town you are in.
- Depending on the level of medical care you require, you can find a doctor or nurse through the local clinics or laboratories. I need some regular blood work so I found a doctor who can do it at my home. My doctor also offered to help me find a helper. Many communities have medical teams that come to you … check on Facebook. They are not expensive and usually have medicines and will treat uncomplicated cases.
- Mexico has lots of caretakers, whether they are housekeepers, or you need more. Ask trusted neighbors or new friends if they know of anyone. It may be the sister of their housekeeper. It helps if they have a car, but taxis are abundant and inexpensive. If you need help but not necessarily medical assistance, you can easily find someone and set a schedule and fee for cleaning, laundry, shopping, or errands.
- Do not be afraid to ask questions. If you find a favorite restaurant, ask if they deliver. If you find a nice taxi driver, ask if he is available for your day's shopping errands and how much is it. If you want to go to a coffee farm or the ecological park, let them know you need assistance, and they will more than likely find a way to accommodate you. Ask on the expat network for help finding someone. As we age, we all need help.
- The sidewalks are not always safe for wheelchairs or walkers. Be careful. And learn enough Spanish to ask for help: “Ayudame por favor” (Help me, please). Muchas gracias. I am learning Spanish from my helper! And I help her with English. There is nothing more frustrating than not being able to ask for help!
- Bring your medical records. Digital copies are great because they can be easily translated if necessary. (Google Translate has a new photo translate function).
This is my experience. I wanted to explain that you can enjoy our paradise despite handicaps. There are many more options and services here, I have only listed a few. On the Facebook expat sites you will find suggestions and recommendations. I was very worried at the beginning of this new experience but now I feel that I am totally covered!