Joyce, a woman in her 60s living in San Diego County, doesn’t want to move into a nursing home—despite having multiple chronic medical conditions and a history of severe back issues that have caused dangerous falls in the past.
Fortunately, she doesn’t have to. Joyce can continue living independently in her apartment with the companionship of her dog while gaining comprehensive healthcare support through her local PACE program facility, the Gary and Mary West PACE Center in San Marcos, Calif.
PACE, short for Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly, is a long-running Medicare and Medicaid program that helps nursing home–eligible residents remain at home while getting the care they need. The community-based programs deliver medical and social support, transportation and adult day services, among other things.
But PACE programs aren’t available in many parts of the country, leaving out an estimated 1.2 million potentially eligible older adults. Now there’s a push to change that, and new resources are available to help drive the program’s expansion nationwide.
The Power of Aging in Place
Data show that Joyce is far from an outlier in her desire to live at home instead of a group care facility. For older Americans, retaining autonomy at their residence is not only the vastly preferred option, but also the safest and healthiest route. Look no further than fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic for evidence that group nursing homes can be socially isolating and lack necessary medical resources for residents.
But aging in place comes with its own distinct challenges. With the majority of older adults managing multiple chronic health conditions, according to the CDC, comprehensive health support is often a must. Mobility issues and restricted income can further complicate matters.
PACE serves more than 62,000 older adults across 32 states, but still reaches less than 5% of people who might benefit.
That’s where the nation’s PACE programs have stepped in to fill the gap ever since 1971, when the first center opened. PACE’s medical and social offerings make it an ideal solution for many older adults managing multiple health conditions but preferring to age in place. The program also handles billing to Medicare and Medicaid, ensuring participants can access high-quality care regardless of income.
Today, PACE serves more than 62,000 older adults across 32 states. That’s notable growth from its early days but still reaching less than 5% of people who might benefit.
That is why West Health, The John A. Hartford Foundation and The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation are supporting the National PACE Association’s PACE 2.0 Initiative to accelerate growth of the PACE model with a goal of serving 200,000 older adults by 2028. The initiative is working to scale up existing PACE programs, spread to new communities, and implement policy changes to help more adults access PACE resources.
Interactive Guide Helps Launch of PACE Centers
As advocates of aging in place, leaders at West Health looked at ways to minimize hurdles that stand in the way of PACE’s growth. They found a need to simplify the complex and time-consuming process of opening a center—a process that can take years and includes steps such as conducting market assessments, securing financing, and enrolling participants.
One piece of the solution is an interactive Fast PACE Start-Up and Expansion Guide. Designed by West Health to serve as a centralized information hub that facilitates what can be a very involved process, the guide takes users through every step of opening or expanding a PACE site and connects those steps to supporting resources.
Topics include conducting organizational and market assessments, engaging stakeholders, financial planning, the application process, data and quality improvement, center location, building preparation and design, staffing, vendors and contractors, data systems and marketing.
How ASA Members Can Help
If you already have a PACE program in your community:
- You can play an important role in connecting residents with the program.
- Build a connection with your local PACE community liaison, who can provide a tour or present at a community meeting.
- When you identify older adults who would be at risk for nursing homes, encourage them to consider PACE.
- Schedule meetings with local PACE contacts on an ongoing basis and share updates with your network.
If you don’t have a PACE program in your community:
Help forge the path to bringing this valuable resource to your area.
- Find out if you’re in an underserved region. Use this interactive map to identify the potential PACE-eligible population in your community.
- Discuss options to open PACE with local healthcare providers and stakeholders.
- Share the new Fast PACE Start-Up and Expansion Guide with community leaders.
Expanding PACE will help older adults like Joyce remain independent, with access to high-quality, affordable health and support services that preserve and protect their dignity, quality of life and independence.
“When I need help, [West PACE] staff help me achieve my goals,” Joyce shared. “This facility has really, really helped me.”
Amy Herr, MHS, PMP, is director, Health Policy, at the West Health Policy Center, and Liane Wardlow, PhD, is senior director, Clinical Research & Telehealth at the West Health Institute, in San Diego, Calif.
Photo: PACE programs can allow older adults to live at home independently.
Photo credit: Courtesy of West Health.