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Seniors, Their Families and Caregivers Give Thanks for PACE

PACE participants enjoy a weekly Tai Chi Yoga class at one of the centers.

Nov. 21, 2017 – Darlene’s husband had numerous strokes and could only move from his wheelchair to a bed. He slept much of the time, and Darlene spent most of her days caring for his needs before someone recommended a program provided by N.C. Medicaid and the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. 

Since her husband became a participant in the Program for All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE), Darlene says his health has improved, he is able to join in some activities at the PACE center and enjoys his time with others at the center. 

“PACE saved my life; it saved my husband’s life,” she said recently. “Ya’ll are giving me my life back. I don’t know how to thank whoever started this program on behalf of the caregivers.”

The PACE initiative provides an alternative to nursing facilities for low-income adults who meet Medicaid’s criteria of needing nursing facility services but are able to live in a community setting. PACE is an adult day health program for seniors age 55 and up and features medical care, meal services, physical therapy, activities, socialization, therapeutic recreation and restorative therapies in one location. 

The 12 PACE organizations in the state are not-for-profit entities and are approved by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and N.C. Medicaid. The program gives over 2,000 older adults in need of assistance a place to go during the day, but also allows their caregivers to work and do other activities. 

PACE provides services such as transportation to doctor’s appointments, medication administration, social work, nutritional services and medical specialty services. PACE also provides in-home and personal care, emergency services and long-term care services. Through a customized interdisciplinary team, each PACE participant is given care that manages overall health and well-being in a way that contributes to improved health outcomes and improves the quality of their lives and their families’ lives.

Frank, a participant at a PACE center, has many health issues and has been through five back surgeries and heart surgery.

“When I came here, I was nothing like what I am today,” he says. “I was a grumpy old soul that wouldn’t speak to anybody. I was completely introverted, where previously in life I had been extroverted.” 

Through receiving needed health care and compassionate management of his overall well-being, Frank’s life has been changed. “They do save lives. It’s a great program, and I do wish it was in all 100 counties.”

While the onsite physical health services are highly valued, participants are especially appreciative of the one-on-one attention from the staff and the sense of family they develop with other participants at the centers. 

PACE, established in 2008, continues to be a model that is improving the lives of older adults and their families supported by outstanding caregivers, devoted staff at the facilities and the dedication of the interdisciplinary teams. PACE also demonstrates Medicaid’s commitment to improving the health and well-being of North Carolinians as it sets the standard for other states across the country.

Lynette Harris