By Mary Morrell | Contributing Editor
To live safely, with dignity, independence and care close at hand, is the concern for many seniors as they begin to struggle with health issues.
Most would prefer to remain in their homes and communities rather than move into a nursing home, explained Maggie Welsh, marketing coordinator, Life St. Francis, a Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE), Bordentown.
PACE programs, which allow elders to live safely at home while being helped by an interdisciplinary team of healthcare experts, offer that option nationwide through 240 centers in 31 states.
The principal value of PACE, said Elizabeth Brennan, assistant division director, N.J. Division of Aging, is the “individual customized care coordinated by the interdisciplinary team which meets regularly to review, adapt or revise care needs.”
Each team includes a primary care physician; nurse; social worker; physical, occupational and recreational therapist; dietitian; home care coordinator; personal care attendant, PACE center supervisor and driver.
The PACE model, centered on the belief that it is better for the well-being of seniors with chronic care needs and their families to be served in the community whenever possible, was developed in San Francisco in the 1970s as ON LOK, the Chinese-American community’s alternative to nursing home placement.
PACE was formally established by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services as a permanent Medicare Advantage option in 1997. PACE benefits include, but are not limited to, all Medicaid and Medicare covered services.
LIFE St. Francis, a program of St. Francis Hospital, Trenton, was the first PACE agency in New Jersey, said Welsh.
Today, six PACE agencies are currently operating in the state, with service availability designated by zip code. LIFE St. Francis serves elders in Mercer County and sections of Burlington County, while Beacon of LIFE, Oceanport, serves qualifying zip-codes in Monmouth County.
Brennan noted that each PACE agency has a physical site which serves as its clinic and/or medical day care. Transportation to and from the site is included in PACE services.
Additional PACE services include those covered by Medicare or Medicaid and authorized by the health care team: adult day primary care, dentistry, meals, home and hospital care, laboratory services, nursing home care, physical therapy, prescription drugs, among others.
For Mercer County resident Connie Maglione, and her mom, Stella Maglione, age 95, the PACE program of Life St. Francis is something for which they are both grateful.
“The PACE program at Life St. Francis has provided the much needed care for my mother to live safely with dignity,” she says. “It has provided personal care aides, medical needs, and social opportunities that are monitored and assessed on a regular basis with the family’s input. The staff has always been accessible and flexible according to my mother’s changing situation and has allowed me the time and energy to spend more quality time with her.”
To participate in PACE, an individual must be 55 years of age or older, be certified as meeting the need for nursing home level of care by their state, have the ability to live safely in the community with the support of PACE services, and reside in the service area of a PACE organization.
To learn more about PACE, call the New Jersey Division of Aging Services toll-free at 1-800-792-8820 or visit state.nj.us/humanservices/doas/services/pace/ or medicaid.gov/medicaid/ltss/pace/pace-benefits/index.html.
The National PACE Association is at 703-535-1565, npaonline.org, or contact the PACE agencies directly: Life St. Francis at 609-599-5433, stfrancismedical.org/LIFE/Overview.aspx, or Beacon of LIFE, 732-592-3400, beaconhss.com.