Setting the PACE: Pasadena program is blazing a trail for senior care

Gone are the days when seniors had no foreseeable future outside of nursing home walls. Elderly patients no longer have to choose between their health care needs and the comfort of their home.

WelbeHealth in Pasadena is creating a new picture of what senior living can look like through a unique care alternative called Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly, or PACE.

PACE has been implemented in medical programs throughout California and seeks to give seniors the freedom to live their life on their terms.

It provides a care plan that works with participants both at home and in their centers at an affordable rate. Most importantly, it allows for flexibility, offering at-home services, recreational and socialization services, and medical services all under the same plan.

“The challenge of lonely, isolated seniors with very, very complex needs is the most paramount health care challenge in the United States,” said Dr. Matt Patterson, president of WelbeHealth.

The PACE program model recognizes this issue and aims to connect participants with others who might be facing similar challenges.

At WelbeHealth, the solution is quite simple. Each participant in the program can live at home while spending two to three days a week of their choosing at the facility. They receive transportation to and from the center. This allows them to make time for loved ones and other household priorities.

“Being able to stay in their home, it’s psychological that they feel much more empowered and independent,” said Dr. Michael Le, chief medical officer at WelbeHealth. “I mean, that’s closer to their families and loved ones who are their support networks.”

During the days when they don’t go into the facility, nurses are available to make home visits and participants still have access to transportation.

On a typical day in the WelbeHealth facility, folks have the freedom to engage with a wide range of services. The Pasadena location holds karaoke, games and a number of other socialization-related activities. They also provide a medical spa, laundry facilities and a gym where physical therapy can be completed during a participant’s visit. Being able to get all-around medical care without even having to leave the facility is one of WelbeHealth’s biggest perks.

“What’s unique is that we’re a physician-led organization. As odd as that sounds, it’s still unusual in a lot of health care organizations. We’re all doctors. Our CEO is a physician,” Patterson said.

Because of its many perks, this program has become increasingly popular among Californians. However, it’s not easy to get approved to participate. Seniors must meet a few specific criteria, as Dr. Vaneesh Soni, chief growth officer at WelbeHealth, explained. They must be enrolled in or qualify for Medi Cal or Medicaid, or they can also have Medicare.

“Then they have to meet the level of care requirement, which means that they have to have clinical and or social determinants, factors that qualify them to receive these types of services,” he said. “And what that means is they have to be almost frail enough to be in a nursing home, or they have to be frail enough to qualify to be in a nursing home.”

The goal is to help the most vulnerable seniors receive top of the line care, and WelbeHealth wants to offer the PACE program to as many qualifying seniors as possible. They also recently opened two more locations in Rosemead and North Hollywood to provide care to underserved communities throughout the Los Angeles area.

“It’s the kind of health care that we’d all want for our loved ones as they age and become more frail,” Le said.

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