Tim Bowen: Program would benefit seniors


Published: Sunday, March 24, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 21, 2013 at 11:25 p.m.

Keeping frail elderly loved ones at home can be extremely difficult; not only in terms of ensuring they receive the proper medical and personal care they need — which can often be a weekly or even daily necessity — but it can also prove difficult in terms of managing and maintaining a healthy balance with a career and personal life.

Many of us have struggled with this challenge, yet know it is a more acceptable alternative than placing our mother, father or other loved one in a nursing home. However, there is now an alternative that, if introduced, will provide much-needed assistance to families that are caring for a loved one by providing comprehensive in-home care to frail seniors at risk for nursing home placement. This alternative is called a PACE program, or Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly.

PACE programs are innovative managed-care programs focused on providing all health care and other supportive services to keep those 55 years or older, who are very frail and at risk for long-term nursing home placement, living as independently as possible, for as long as possible.

During the 2013 legislative session, Haven Hospice is hopeful that the Florida Legislature will support the implementation of PACE programs in Alachua, Clay and Duval Counties. Many wonder why a hospice provider would operate a PACE program as they are two very different services.

The reason is simple: Hospices are often best equipped from an operational standpoint to run PACE programs. At Haven, we truly believe that this valuable and unique managed-care program will have a positive impact on the welfare of Florida seniors and their families, as well as providing significant savings to the state Medicaid budget.

If introduced, this valuable program would provide the entire continuum of care and services to seniors, including adult day care that offers primary care (dental and eye care; podiatry care; physical, speech, occupational and recreational therapies; nutritional counseling and meals; social work services; nursing and personal care); primary medical care provided by a PACE physician, who is familiar with the history, needs and preferences of each PACE participant; home health care and personal care to maintain the senior's independence in their homes; all necessary prescription drugs; respite care and hospital and nursing home care when necessary.

In PACE programs, care and services are centered around an adult day health care facility, which will strive to retain the focus on care and socialization by aiming to limit participants' time in transport to or from the PACE facility. Moreover, under this unique program, health care providers and professionals are allowed the freedom and flexibility to plan and provide the most appropriate services, allowing each participant's care to be specifically tailored to suit their needs and circumstances.

We are hopeful that members of the Florida Legislature will consider supporting the unique and valuable PACE concept this session, that will have a significant and positive impact on frail seniors and their loved ones.

Tim Bowen is president of Haven Hospice.

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