The Program for All inclusive Care for the Elderly helps people to maintain an individual’s independence in the community for as long as possible.  Individuals who are involved with this program must be over 55 years of age and also must qualify for admission to a nursing home based on an objective scoring system.  The program is funded by a combination of Medicare, Medicaid and private payment. Services are delivered at a cost that is substantially less than nursing home placement as those enrolled live in their own house or apartment.

Participants are transported to the health center 2 or 3 times per week and this is staffed by an interdisciplinary team that includes doctors, therapists, social workers and others. The team huddles daily to discuss the needs of the individuals who are in attendance.  Karen Shalke, Regional Representative for the Erie County’s  PACE program, called Catholic Health LIFE – Living Independently for Elders  points out that this “coordinated effort takes all of the fragmented senior care services and pulls them together into one cohesive delivery package.” Jeff Paterson, interim CEO of Health Association of Niagara County – which is hoping to launch Complete Senior Care in 2011 gives the example  that “if the van driver notices that someone is limping slightly, the physical therapist can be notified immediately.” The emphasis is on prevention as a significantly lower cost alternative to costly and debilitating hospitalizations. 

The day center also offers participants an opportunity to enjoy recreational and social activities while receiving personal care and supervision during the day. Rehabilitation therapies, nursing help, bathing assistance, advice for re-certification for Medicaid, food stamps, living wills, health care proxy and other social service work is available along with nutritional and spiritual care. Seniors enrolled in the program have the assurance that their ongoing health and emotional needs will be addressed. “As their needs evolve, the services evolve with them,” says Paterson.

Membership is voluntary and can be ended at any time.

This concept traces its roots to the San Francisco area when in the 1970s a group of civic leaders created a community based system of care for families whose elders had immigrated from Europe and the Far East. By 2009, some 72 PACE programs were operational in 30 states. 

PACE programs in Western New York are located on the campus of the OLV Senior Neighborhood in Lackawanna along with another in Olean. Complete Senior Care in Niagara County hopes to open next year, pending state and federal approvals.

There is a rapidly expanding need for person centered, cost effective services such as these that will allow people to remain independent in their homes for as long as possible, yet it takes so long to establish a PACE program. Each of these entities mentioned in this article spent 7 years getting necessary approvals from different government agencies. The needs of the baby boom generation will strain current systems to their breaking point quite soon and it is imperative that political leaders look at coordinated service delivery models such as these and streamline the processes involved with establishing them.