Elderhaus PACE preparing activity packages to send to participants' homes
March was a whirlwind of a month. As the threat of the novel coronavirus grew, PACE programs did what they do best: care for participants. PACE participants fall squarely within the highest risk category due to their age and the existence of multiple chronic medical conditions. Our programs work unceasingly to keep our participants healthy, safe and at home, knowing that avoiding hospitalizations, emergency rooms and nursing homes can best protect them at this time.
The PACE center, an integral part of the coordinated, comprehensive PACE model of care, is normally a bustling operation on weekdays: with around a hundred participants in attendance, enjoying meals, social activities, exercise and physical therapy, personal care, medication dispensing, clinic appointments and more. Our fleet of vans and drivers deploy daily across the communities served by PACE to not only bring participants to the centers, but to other outside medical appointments.
As knowledge grew of the dangers of group gatherings and the importance of social distancing, PACE programs across the state prohibited visitors and restricted attendance, with some closing the day center completely. Clinics remain open for medical care, with screenings and temperature checks, segregated spaces and increased sanitation per infection control plans. Clinical staff are closely monitoring participants’ heath, alert to any emergent signs of COVID-19, influenza and more.
PACE staff shifted nimbly and sometimes at a moment’s notice with great creativity. Drivers were re-deployed to deliver needed medications to the participants at their homes, often with prepared, frozen or shelf-stable meals and activity packets. PACE staff are calling frequently to check on participants and their family caregivers, knowing that proactive action is a fundamental principle of the PACE model. Care is provided in the home as much as possible, through home visits and telehealth. Technology is also being used in other ways, from helping participants use tablets to communicate with PACE staff and other friends and family members outside the home and for games, books and other activities. Religious services are being streamed online and videos of simple exercises to do at home are being shared. Other needed services during this time have included alerting participants to the various scams and frauds being perpetrated during the crisis. Respite needs have increased as family caregivers report more stress and burden.
PACE programs are also acutely aware of the health and well-being of their own staff. Because PACE provides care through the coordinated efforts of the interdisciplinary team, staff members are accustomed to regular in-person morning meetings but have shifted to conference and video calls. Programs are finding ways to support not only the stress and anxiety of the participants and their caregivers, but for staff as well. Efforts continue to source appropriate PPE and infection mitigation supplies. If you have supplies to donate, please contact your local PACE program (see list here).