Seniors in Panamá
The current wave of foreigners moving to Panamá in search of a better quality of life at a lower cost of living from places like the United States started about ten years ago. Before that, it was a lot easier to get live-in domestic help such as maids and gardeners, as well as technical handymen, electricians, plumbers, etc., at a great price.
Year after year, the demand for these services increased, due the great quantity of expats arriving for different reasons, including the worldwide economical crisis that encouraged retirees to seek offshore destinations in order to live a peaceful and affordable life. For these people, Panamá has a lot to offer. Panamá was booming.
Now, in 2015, prices have increased a lot, but still remain enviously low, compared to certain countries such as the US and Canada, in which caregiver prices are extremely high.
Some personal experiences:
While living in Florida in 1996, we needed to place my mother into a nursing home for a while, because she was experiencing a major medical condition. It was certainly not a good or pleasant experience, even thought all our family was constantly at her side, giving her constant love and bringing her the things she needed or feeding her. The price was extremely high.
Back in Panamá, in 2001, we placed my mother-in-law for a month into a nursing home in Altos del Golf (a very nice area of the city) while we traveled to visit our children. It was a very home-oriented place, and extremely clean. The price was very a very modest US $800.00 month.
It had all the facilities a person might need, with pleasant and trained people. A doctor was available, if needed. The home was not as sophisticated as one in the United States, but it has more personal care and love.
In Panamá, when both our in-laws reached their care years in 1999 through 2002, we hired two full time live-in maids, at that time with good salary of $250.00 each, and all live in expenses covered, including medical, with my husband and me living next door, available at all times, and supervising. That really did not work, as they needed constant supervision.
Finally, when only one in- law alive, I moved in and took care of her by myself 24/7 with help for cooking and cleaning until her death, eight months later.
This tells you that every situation is unique, and based on all those experiences, I can strongly suggest that you get help. You can still get good help in Panamá, even though salaries have been going up a lot, but still, it is much less than other places, like the United States.
Try to get people from the "interior" (you can still mold them; they are simple and innocent). If a parent can live with you, it is much better. You will have the great opportunity to honor them until their last minute. Is so rewarding to have those memories.
Nursing homes in Panamá are booming, especially during the last 10 years, due to more and more couples having to work demanding hours. You can find nursing homes in Altos del Golf, Clayton, El Carmen, Betania, San Francisco, and other places.
Prices have gone up over the years, but are very affordable, maybe between $800 (Betania) and $3,000 per month, all included. All are small and "home-oriented” with people ready to please you and with nutritional food, as in Panamá you are blessed to get fresh fruits and vegetables at extraordinarily good prices.
If you live in the "interior", things are a lot easier, but as far as I know, there are no nursing homes as yet. I'm sure they will be there soon.
We do not have yet "hospice" facilities, which I would find helpful. Hospitals take this place for now.
In seeking live-in help, do your research, as there are many foreign ladies who charge way more than Panamanians. And a last piece of advice: get good references for anyone you hire. If possible, go to your attorney, accountant, embassy or any other institution of your choice that you trust, and get the as much information as you can on this person, as well as your contract. Be very specific what they are going to do, and the benefits they will receive. Make sure to include your labor requirements. I´ve heard many stories of people who did not do this, and regretted it later.