Reframing Senior Care to Include PACE

This article was originally posted on McKnights Homecare. Read the full article here.

The Harvard Business Review recently called PACE (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly) the roadmap for elder care. The paper’s authors agreed that its financially advantageous structure and individualized healthcare plans should position PACE as the model for the rest of the U.S. healthcare system.

In the past few years PACE has also been called the underdog of senior care, a hidden gem in healthcare, the secret for seniors and caregivers. Those who know about PACE champion it as an effective service. Still, too many people haven’t heard about PACE — including those who could really benefit from it.

It’s important to build awareness for this underknown senior service. We need to reframe how we think about senior care, so PACE is not only represented in the conversation about care options but is also a top-of-mind choice.

The traditional line of thinking has been that as one ages, their options become limited. Nursing home care is one option; a family member serving as caregiver is another. But, for many, neither situation is tenable. That’s where PACE can step in and that’s how PACE can be positioned as an optimal senior care choice.

Seniors want to age in place

Oftentimes, nursing homes come to mind first when considering aging services, regardless of whether the individual wants to live in one. But today’s seniors don’t want to go to a nursing home.

For years, older adults have preferred to age in place. This trend continues. In a survey, the majority of respondents agreed “the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level is an important goal.”

We need to honor an individual’s desire to live at home and in the community as they age.

But to age in place as one wishes requires more than sheer will. For those with chronic or complex medical conditions, healthcare availability and quality can make or break this wish. PACE can make the preference to age in place a reality.

Think of PACE as inside-out nursing home care. PACE delivers nursing home-level medical services in PACE participants’ homes or at a PACE center and has proven results in reducing admissions to hospital settings.

For most, PACE is more affordable than nursing home care. PACE receives funding through Medicare and Medicaid and operates as both insurer and care provider, ensuring participants have their medical needs covered. Let’s say you need a procedure that would be deemed out-of-network or uncovered by most insurance companies. PACE providers sign an agreement with that healthcare facility and privately pay to cover the procedure. PACE holds the risk, so the participant need not worry.

With nursing home-level care through PACE, seniors reap the benefits of these facilities while remaining in their home.

Caregivers need support

In the traditional senior care mindset, seniors avoiding nursing homes may have an adult child serve as caregiver. Family caregivers carry the responsibility and, frankly, the burden of coordinating care for elderly loved ones.

For some this is manageable. Others with aging parents also have families of their own and jobs they depend on for income. Sometimes elderly parents need regular monitoring if they have memory or mobility issues, for instance.

Furthermore, caregiving is more expensive now than before, especially when factoring in longevity and complex medical conditions. Between caring for children of their own and keeping regular work hours, family caregivers’ resources may be stretched too thin to provide the needed care to aging loved ones.

Caregivers partner with PACE to share the responsibility of coordinating care for their loved ones. Participants have a dedicated, multi-member Interdisciplinary Team, including a primary care provider, health center registered nurse, home care registered nurse, physical therapist, occupational therapist, recreation therapist, social worker and dietician.

Together, this team treats the whole person with a full-circle view. Healthcare is administered in home or at the center, and caregivers can lean on PACE to organize transportation to medical appointments whether they’re at the center or other facility.

PACE’s home healthcare professionals support the participant in their home and participants can spend time at the center to receive medical care and to also engage in recreational and social activities, all while in the vicinity of healthcare workers who provide care if needed.

With a PACE team available at home and PACE center, family caregivers can make certain elderly loved ones are receiving the care they need.

To be clear, awareness alone will not compel individuals who qualify for PACE to choose it as an option. People need to truly understand the benefits PACE can provide them and elderly loved ones. We must reframe how we think about senior care by prioritizing seniors and caregivers’ preferences and resources when we are determining the best option for care to help connect more seniors to PACE.

Dan Drake is president and CEO of Trinity Health PACE, one of the largest PACE providers in the country with 14 owned and managed programs, providing care for over 3,000 seniors. With decades of experience in healthcare, Dan has a history of leading successful PACE programs. He spent several years as a nurse prior to his leadership roles, and his commitment to compassionate care plays a fundamental role within the organization. Dan is from Delaware County, Pennsylvania and enjoys the Philadelphia Eagles and spending time with his family.