According to AARP, nine out of ten Americans hope to live out their days in their own homes. But as they age, many are faced with a dilemma: They want to remain independent but need at least some of the support that a senior living community offers. Across the country, innovative new programs are springing up to bridge this gap by offering the support that would normally come with assisted living or even a nursing home while allowing older adults to remain in their community. These programs run the gamut from informal neighborhood associations to more organized programs coordinated by community agencies to federally funded demonstration projects. While the options may seem complex, the underlying principle is simplicity itself: Caring for older adults, like caring for children, makes a lot more sense when we do it as a community. If an older family member or friend is committed to “aging in place” (a term for those who consciously choose to grow old at home rather than moving to a senior living community), it’s worth exploring such programs and finding out whether they exist in his area, or what it would take to start one.
Pioneered in San Francisco in the 1970s, the PACE model has now spread to about 50 sites nationwide. Run by community-based organizations and funded mainly by Medicare and Medicaid, PACE is open to those over the age of 55 who would otherwise be eligible for nursing home care but are able to live safely in the community with support.
By providing “wraparound” services including social support and medical care – usually in a neighborhood day center – as well as in-home meals and other care as needed, PACE programs aim to keep ailing older adults out of nursing homes and in their own homes. Participants have access to coordinated medical care as well as physical, occupational, and recreational therapy; nutritional counseling; social services; specialists such as dentists, optometrists, and audiologists; and home healthcare as needed.
Early research indicates that participating in PACE can slow the decline often seen in nursing home residents. If someone is not eligible for Medicaid, which is an income-based benefit, he may have to cover some of the cost of the program himself, but it’s generally less expensive than nursing home care.
You can find a list of PACE providers all over the country at the National PACE Association’s website or by calling (703) 535-1565.