Programs will celebrate their 30th anniversary Sept. 21
September is being celebrated as National PACE® (Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly) Month. The observance recognizes the work of PACE, which coordinates and provides all needed medical care for its patients, including preventive, primary, acute and long-term care services. The program helps older adults continue living at home in their community. This year’s theme of “Caring for Caregivers, Caring for You” highlights the role of caregivers and the support provided to them by PACE programs.
Palmetto SeniorCare PACE, sponsored by Palmetto Health, serves 300 seniors in four locations: downtown Columbia, Shandon, Lexington and White Rock. The program has served the community for 30 years. Nationally, there are 124 PACE organizations serving more than 45,000 PACE enrollees in 31 states.
The caregiver burden is significantly reduced when a loved one is enrolled in PACE, according to a new survey by the National PACE Association. PACE is an innovative Medicare and Medicaid program that helps people meet their health care needs in the home and community and at day centers rather than in a nursing home or other care facility.
Wendi Knight and others like her are one of the many caregivers we are celebrating. Wendi, the laboratory director at Lexington Medical Center, was raised in the upstate by her grandparents, who farmed corn and worked in a corn mill. The Knights moved to Columbia in order to put their daughter through school at the University of South Carolina. Instilled with a strong familial bond and sense of responsibility, Wendi knew she would be there for her grandparents in their old age. She even built a home for the three of them in 2008. Sadly, her grandfather died suddenly a year later, leaving Wendi alone to care for her grandmother, Mary Knight, who was suffering from dementia.
“I had called in a sitter to help with Grandma, and I was just drowning in the sitter’s bills,” remembers Wendi. “It didn’t feel like I was there for Grandma as much I should. I had cashed in all my annual leave to pay the bills and I didn’t know what to do next other than to quit my job and move back to where the family is in the upstate.”
Her grandfather’s hospice worker suggested Wendi look into Palmetto Senior Care PACE. “It was a blessing,” says Wendi. “It was the best blessing God could have sent our family. I felt like I had a real support system that it wasn’t just me and her. And I’ve felt that way the whole time she’s been in the program. It’s almost been 10 years now.”
Wendi refers to the Palmetto SeniorCare PACE staff as her partners. She said, “Even though the system itself is standardized, it’s individualized in that they give every participant exactly what they need every given day. They are in constant contact with me. They even let me know what I can do better at home.”
Being in health care herself, Wendi is especially appreciative of the program’s emphasis on care. “We’re both in it for the same reasons – to try and keep her healthy and keep her going. They want me to be able to keep her at home as long as we can.”
A recent survey on caregiver burden, conducted by Vital Research on behalf of the National PACE Association found that 96.6 percent of family members are satisfied with the support they receive through PACE, and 97.5 percent of family caregivers would recommend PACE to someone in a similar situation.
Nearly half (49.6 percent) of family members reported high caregiver burden at the time their loved one enrolled in PACE. After enrollment, more than 58 percent of those who had rated their caregiver burden as moderate to high experienced less burden.
“Caregiver support is among the key services that sets PACE apart from other models of care,” said Suzanne Tillman, director of Palmetto SeniorCare PACE. “We have had so many enrollees and their families tell us how PACE has impacted their life. It is gratifying to see this reflected in the data of the first national survey of PACE family caregivers.”
PACE enrollees are age 55 and over and need a nursing home level of care, but more than 95 percent are able to live in the community with the services and support they receive through PACE. For more information about Palmetto SeniorCare PACE, call 803-296-2273 (CARE) or visit PalmettoHealth.org/SeniorCarePACE.
An all-inclusive health care program that offers a more personal way for frail seniors to receive health care, Palmetto SeniorCare PACE provides participants with many kinds of care.