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WelbeHealth Celebrates National PACE Month

September is National PACE Month, celebrating the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE). WelbeHealth’s innovative PACE model helps California’s frailest seniors live in their homes as long as possible. More than 95 percent of participants enrolled in the PACE program live outside of a nursing home.

“This year, we celebrate National PACE Month as we work to recover from the historic COVID-19 pandemic, which provides us a unique perspective to celebrate the original development of the PACE model of care and envision a future where every American will have access to PACE,” says Shawn Bloom, president and CEO of the National PACE Association (NPA).

Did you know? The incidence of PACE participants contracting or dying from COVID-19 was one-third the rate of nursing home residents.

PACE: A History of Innovative Senior Care in California

There are currently 140 PACE organizations in 30 states. The organizations serve more than 55,000 seniors. Before PACE grew to what it is today, it started in California. The program began in San Francisco in 1971 as a unique way to care for elderly with chronic conditions and to help them maintain independence, dignity, and quality of life in their communities.

PACE has a proven history of providing excellent senior care, while allowing individuals to live safely in the homes and communities they know and love. On average, PACE participants are 76 years old and live with multiple medical conditions. Around 46 percent have some form of dementia.

Fun Fact: In California, 65 PACE centers and alternative care settings care for over 13,000 seniors in 22 counties.

Tapping PACE’s Potential

California’s senior population is growing faster than any other age group. By 2030, 25 percent of Californians will be 60 or older. Senior care must evolve to meet the challenges of caring for the older population. PACE is a critical part of the solution.

“Now the time is right to demand more from our long-term care delivery system. PACE is ready to help every community meet that challenge,” says Bloom.

PACE provides home care, prescription drugs, transportation, meals, therapies, and any other services seniors need to remain safely in their homes. This comprehensive care is preventive in nature and results in better health outcomes for participants.

The PACE model is a critical part of keeping seniors independent and out of the hospital. About 92 percent of seniors enrolled in the program are very satisfied with the care provided by PACE. Additionally, 97 percent of caregivers would recommend PACE.

More Accessible Senior Care

Nearly 90 percent of Californians want access to services that help them live at home in their communities as they age. But, non-white and lower-income Americans report less access to local services that would help them do so. PACE can meet the needs of a diverse aging population, including lower-income seniors and individuals of color. In California, 80 percent of PACE program participants are from communities of color.

Wildfire Safety Tips for Seniors

The California wildfires have resulted in some of the worst air quality in the nation.  Seniors can be extremely affected, especially participants in our PACE programs so we’ve created some tips for all seniors:
  1. Remain indoors when at all possible.  Keep windows closed to decrease exposure to smoke.
  2. If you MUST go out wear a mask and limit time outside.
  3. Any worsening cough, congestion or wheezing, please call your PACE center right away.
  4. If you need refills on your respiratory medications including inhalers please call and we are happy to refill if appropriate.

To find out more about PACE services we provide, please click here.

Free photo 1024746 © Frank Farrell – Dreamstime.com

Vision Exam Month

August is National Vision Exam Month.  Healthy vision is important for people of all ages and is key for seniors to be able to live more independent lives in their homes and communities.  Here are some tips from the CDC on how to keep your eyes healthy.

Try 6 Tips for Healthy Eyes—and a Healthy You

  1. Add more movement to your day. Physical activity can lower your risk for health conditions that can affect your vision, like type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. As a bonus, it can help you feel your best. Pick activities you enjoy and remember, anything that gets your heart beating faster counts!
  2. Get your family talking… about eye health history. Some eye diseases—like glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration—can run in families. Although it may not be the most exciting topic of conversation, talking about your family health history can help everyone stay healthy. Ask your relatives if they know about any eye problems in your family. Be sure to share what you learn with your eye doctor to see if you need to take steps to lower your risk.
  3. Step up your healthy eating game. Eating healthy foods helps prevent health conditions—like type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure—that can put you at risk for eye problems. Eat dark, leafy greens like spinach, kale, and collard greens that are high in antioxidants called lutein and zeaxanthin, which help prevent macular degeneration and cataracts. Also pick up some fish high in omega-3 fatty acids like halibut, salmon, and tuna.
  4. Stay on top of long-term health conditions—like diabetes and high blood pressure. Diabetes and high blood pressure can increase your risk for some eye diseases, like glaucoma. If you have diabetes or high blood pressure, ask your doctor about steps you can take to manage your condition and lower your risk of vision loss.
  5. If you smoke, make a quit plan. Quitting smoking is good for almost every part of your body, including your eyes! That’s right—kicking the habit will help lower your risk for eye diseases like macular degeneration and cataracts. Quitting smoking is hard, but it’s possible—and a quit plan can help. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) for free support.
  6. Give your eyes a rest. Looking at a computer for a long time can tire out your eyes. Follow the 20-20-20 rule—rest your eyes by taking a break every 20 minutes to look at something about 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

Regular vision exams are part of the comprehensive services provided by PACE.  For more about PACE services, click here.

Free photo 5904867 © Nedim Jukić – Dreamstime.com

Tips to Stay Safe During Heatwaves

We are getting well into the summer months which means, hotter temperatures.  We’ve already seen a couple of heat waves come through California summer is officially only a few weeks old!  In addition to the heat, power outages can occur during these high-temperature periods.

Please take measures to stay cool and remain hydrated. Getting too hot can make you sick. You can become ill from the heat if your body can’t compensate for it and properly cool you off. As we age our bodies cannot handle the heat like they did when we were young.  Extreme heat can affect us in the following ways: The main things affecting your body’s ability to cool itself during extremely hot weather are:

  • High humidity. When the humidity is high, sweat won’t evaporate as quickly. This keeps your body from releasing heat as fast as it may need to. High humidity can cause you to sweat excessively which can lead to dehydration.  When your sweat does not evaporate quickly it can lead to feeling overly tired.
  • Personal factors. Age, obesity, fever, dehydration, heart disease, mental illness, poor circulation, sunburn, and prescription drug and alcohol use all can play a role in whether a person can cool off enough in very hot weather. Other factors that can play a role in adverse effects of heat would include fever, medical conditions, poor circulation, certain prescription drug and use of alcohol.
  • Muscle cramping may be an early sign of heat-related illness.

You are potentially at the highest risk for heat-related illness during these heatwaves. When it becomes hot outside, ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you drinking enough water?
  • Do you have access to air conditioning?
  • Do you need help keeping cool?

You can take the following protective actions to prevent illness or death:

  • Stay in air-conditioned buildings as much as you can. Air-conditioning is the number one way to protect yourself against heat-related illness or complications.
  • Drink more water than usual and don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink.
  • Check on a friend or neighbor and have someone do the same for you.
  • Try not to use the stove or oven to cook—it will make you and your house hotter.
  • Try cool showers or baths to help you cool down.

Try to avoid going out in the hot sun, but If you need to go outside during hot weather:

  • Limit your outdoor activity, especially when the sun is hottest.
  • Wear and reapply sunscreen as indicated on the package.
  • Pace your activity, start activities slow and pick up the pace gradually.
  • Drink more water than usual and don’t wait until you’re thirsty.
  • Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
  • Be careful in the sun to avoid sunburn. If you can see through your clothing you can get sunburned through them.

For additional tips from the CDC on keeping cool, click here.

To learn more about the services provided by our PACE program, click here.

Benefits of Pets for Seniors

June 26th is Take Your Dog to Work Day!  Per the CDC, there are many health benefits of owning a dog or pet, including helping seniors live more independent lives in their homes and communities. They can increase opportunities to exercise, get outside, and socialize. Regular walking or playing with pets can decrease blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and triglyceride levels. Pets can help manage loneliness and depression by giving us companionship. Most households in the United States have at least one pet.

Studies have shown that the bond between people and their pets can increase fitness, lower stress, and bring happiness to their owners. Some of the health benefits of having a pet include:

  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Decreased cholesterol levels
  • Decreased triglyceride levels
  • Decreased feelings of loneliness
  • Increased opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities
  • Increased opportunities for socialization

WelbeHealth recognizes these benefits, which is why it was important to us to rescue our participant’s dog last year.  Click here for the story and link to video.

To learn more about PACE and the services that we provide, click here.

Exercise Benefits for Seniors from the CDC

May 27th is National Senior Health & Fitness Day.  We’re posting the guidelines from the CDC to help seniors understand the benefits of exercise.

Making Physical Activity a Part of an Older Adult’s Life

When it comes to getting the physical activity you need each week, it’s important to pick activities you enjoy and that match your abilities. This will help ensure that you stick with them.

Things to Keep in Mind

  • Physical activity has immediate health benefits including better sleep and less anxiety. It also helps reduce your risk of getting serious illnesses such as heart disease, type II diabetes, and depression.
  • Try to do a variety of activities. This can make physical activity more enjoyable and reduce your risk of injury.
  • Regular physical activity is still safe and good for you even if you have problems doing normal daily activities, such as climbing stairs or walking.
  • Lots of things count. And it all adds up. Find what works for you.
  • If you have to take a break from your regular activity routine due to an illness, be sure to start again at a lower level and slowly work back up to your usual level of activity.
  • To get to and stay at a healthy weight, work your way up to doing the equivalent of 150 minutes (for example, 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week. Keep in mind that you may need to do more activity or reduce the number of calories you eat to get to your desired weight.

Learn more about everyday activities you can do to stay active.

Multicomponent Physical Activity

A senior woman walking with her dog

As part of their weekly physical activity, older adults should do multicomponent physical activity to improve physical function and decrease the risk of falls or injury from a fall. This includes balance training, aerobic activity, and muscle-strengthening activities. An example of a multicomponent physical activity program could include walking (aerobic activity), lifting weights (muscle strengthening), and incorporating balance by walking backwards or sideways or by standing on one foot. These activities can be done at home or in a structured group setting.

Improving Your Balance

Older adults should do activities that help them with balance. Balance activities can improve the ability to resist forces within or outside of the body that cause falls. Fall prevention programs that include balance training and other exercises to improve activities of daily living can also significantly reduce the risk of injury, such as bone fractures, if a fall does occur. These activities might include backward walking, sideways walking, heel walking, toe walking, heel to toe walking, practicing standing from a sitting position, and alternating balancing on one leg and then the other with a counter or wall nearby. Strengthening muscles of the back, abdomen, and legs also improves balance.

What if you have a chronic condition?

If you have a health condition such as arthritis, diabetes, or heart disease, it doesn’t mean you can’t be active. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Regular physical activity can improve your quality of life and even reduce your risk of developing other conditions.

Talk with your doctor to find out if your health condition limits, in any way, your ability to be active. Then, work with your doctor to come up with a physical activity plan that matches your abilities. If your condition stops you from meeting the minimum recommended activity levels, try to do as much as you can. What’s important is that you avoid being inactive.

What if you have a disability?

If you are an older adult with a disability, regular physical activity can provide you with important health benefits, like a stronger heart, lungs, and muscles; improved brain health; and a better ability to do everyday tasks. It’s best to talk with your doctor before you begin a physical activity routine. Try to get advice from a professional with experience in physical activity and disability. They can tell you more about the amounts and types of physical activity that are appropriate for you and your abilities.

If you are looking for additional information, visit The National Center on Physical Activity and Disability.

When to Check with Your Doctor

Doing physical activity that requires moderate effort is safe for most people, but if you have a health condition such as heart disease, arthritis, or diabetes, be sure to talk with your doctor about the types and amounts of physical activity that are right for you. Also, if you have been inactive, are not too fit, or are overweight, and want to do vigorous-intensity physical activity, such as jogging, it is safest to discuss this with your doctor.

To learn more about services such as exercise programs that are part of the PACE program, click here.

Senior Isolation – Interview with Debbie Sanchez

Radio Centro America conducted an interview with our own Debbie Sanchez, an Outreach Specialist for our Pacific PACE program in Pasadena.  She discussed the challenges of senior isolation during this global coronavirus pandemic and how WelbeHealth and Pacific PACE have made changes to safely deliver the health and wellness senior care to frail elderly in our service areas, allowing them to continue living more independent lives in their homes and communities.  Click here to watch the interview in Spanish.

For more about the services that PACE provides to help promote senior independence, click here.

How to properly wash your hands

The CDC has provided guidance on how to properly wash your hands.  During the current coronavirus pandemic, knowing the proper technique has never been more important.

Key Times to Wash Hands

You can help yourself and your loved ones stay healthy by washing your hands often, especially during these key times when you are likely to get and spread germs:

  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • Before and after caring for someone at home who is sick with vomiting or diarrhea
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the toilet
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
  • After handling pet food or pet treats
  • After touching garbage

During the COVID-19 pandemic, you should also clean hands:

  • After you have been in a public place and touched an item or surface that may be frequently touched by other people, such as door handles, tables, gas pumps, shopping carts, or electronic cashier registers/screens, etc.
  • Before touching your eyes, nose, or mouth because that’s how germs enter our bodies.

Follow Five Steps to Wash Your Hands the Right Way

Washing your hands is easy, and it’s one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of germs. Clean hands can stop germs from spreading from one person to another and throughout an entire community—from your home and workplace to childcare facilities and hospitals.

Follow these five steps every time.

  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

Our own Nurse Cheryl demonstrates these techniques in the video below:

To see what PACE services we provide to safely keeping seniors living in their homes and communities, click here.

Updated Symptoms for COVID-19 from the CDC

The Center for Disease Control has updated the symptoms related to COVID-19.  People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness.  Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus.

People with at least one of these symptoms may have COVID-19:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

Or at least two of these symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Repeated shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell

If you are experiencing any combination of these symptoms, please contact your physician as soon as possible.

As a reminder:

  • The CDC has advised that older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions stay at home as much as possible. In addition, you should avoid participating in the following activities:  traveling by airplane, going to theaters, attending family events, shopping and going to religious ceremonies.  If you are enrolled in PACE, you fall into this category and are extremely vulnerable to the coronavirus, so you should please follow the CDC’s advice and remain sheltered at home and avoid leaving except for essential needs.
  • In the event that you need to go out in public, the CDC and Public Health recommend that the general public wear non-medical face coverings (e.g. cloth masks) when out in common spaces.

We know that there are a lot of news outlets that are providing conflicting information during this time. Our physicians are monitoring all of the guidance on an ongoing basis and are committed to ensuring that you all get the right information. PACE participants can have any specific questions at any time answered by contacting us via the WelbeLinks!

For more information on PACE services, click here.

Offering support to elderly.

Coronavirus has ravaged nursing homes. For many seniors, there’s a safer option.

PACE keeps frail seniors healthy, socially engaged, and thriving, even in these unprecedented times.

By Si France, MD, Founder + CEO, WelbeHealth

(This article was published on Medium.com)

May 4, 2020 – As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc and claim lives across the country, many seniors and their families have grown nervous about the potential for outbreaks in nursing homes. Housing about 1.4 million Americans, nursing facilities are a major component of our country’s senior care infrastructure and are facing increasing scrutiny as hotbeds for the spread of the virus. In late April, California reported that nearly 40 percent of the state’s coronavirus-related deaths had occurred in the facilities, with a Los Angeles Times analysis finding that the actual figure could be even higher.

Older adults and people with underlying medical conditions are already at high risk, with reports of over 20 percent morbidity for patients ages 80 and older. With the added risk of congregate living in close quarters, nursing homes have become some of the earliest sites of coronavirus outbreaks.

That’s not to say that nursing home operators are to blame for this situation. Even the most comprehensive infection control policies and procedures may not be able to fully contain the virus when the nature of the facilities’ design is so high-risk. In one of his recent daily briefings, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo described housing “vulnerable people in one place” as a “feeding frenzy” for coronavirus. Acknowledging the high risk, at least six states have now gone so far as to grant nursing facilities explicit immunity from coronavirus lawsuits.

Unfortunately, these challenges aren’t likely to go away any time soon. Though some states have already begun to relax social distancing requirements and stay-at-home orders, frail seniors will remain at extremely high risk. Research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that when distancing measures were loosened after the first wave of the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, many cities saw long second waves of deaths in the months that followed. Our most hopeful projections show that the development, testing, and mass distribution of a coronavirus vaccine could take 12–18 months, though even that would be an extraordinarily short timeframe. Some scientists are now suggesting that Covid-19 will never be eradicated, returning in regular waves like the flu. Recent developments in antivirals and neutralizing antibodies provide some cause for optimism and could give us superior treatment options to reduce mortality rates.

Regardless of what the future holds, the devastation of this virus should force us to reevaluate the safest and most effective ways to provide high levels of care for the seniors in our community.

Considering the risk of outbreaks in nursing facilities, what are families to do for their loved ones who need high levels of care? While some may be able to care for elders in their homes, the vast majority cannot. Nursing home-eligible seniors typically need assistance with one or more activities of daily living, such as eating and preparing meals, bathing and grooming, or managing medications — a burden too great for many families to manage without additional support.

Rethinking senior care in the age of Covid-19

Suppose you could design a way to care for frail seniors in the time of coronavirus. What would the ideal model look like? For one, it would need to provide a high level of comprehensive care. Not just medicine, but support for seniors’ daily living activities, physical and occupational therapy, medication management, and more. It would also need to be covered by Medicare and Medicaid insurance, as nearly two-thirds of nursing home residents are supported primarily by Medicaid. Most importantly in our current environment, it would need to help seniors remain in their homes, avoiding the congregate living arrangements conducive to the rapid spread of viral outbreaks.

This model already exists, and thousands of nursing home-eligible seniors around the country are thriving in it.

It’s called the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE), and I believe it will revolutionize the way we care for the most vulnerable members of our communities.

PACE was pioneered in the 1970s by On Lok, a community health organization in San Francisco’s Chinatown neighborhood, to provide support services to enable seniors to continue living in their homes rather than in an institutional care setting. Over time, it’s evolved into a comprehensive, fully integrated medical and social care model, funded by Medicare and Medicaid in 31 states around the country. The fundamental philosophy of PACE is that it is better for seniors and their families to be served in the community whenever possible. Though all PACE participants are eligible for nursing homes, 95 percent live at home.

The programs are both health plan and care provider, enabling a comprehensive approach to managing seniors’ care. An interdisciplinary team of physicians, nurses, and other medical professionals actively monitor care plans and respond to changes in participants’ health. And PACE provides far more than just medical care, supporting seniors and their families with meals, transportation to appointments, social activities, and personal care services.

The evidence for PACE is overwhelming. The program has a long track record of positive outcomes, including longer life expectancy, improved quality of life, reduced rates of depression and dementia, and enhanced personal empowerment for seniors. According to a survey by the National PACE Association, 97.5 percent of family caregivers would recommend the program to someone in a similar situation. PACE even saves taxpayers money, reducing government healthcare spending by $10,000 per participant.

Research shows that PACE lengthens life and improves quality of life for nursing home-eligible seniors

PACE is also extremely well-positioned to address the growing crisis of social isolation in our senior communities. As the New York Times recently reported, social isolation and loneliness are major risk factors not only to seniors’ emotional health but their physical health as well. Isolation is associated with higher rates of heart disease and stroke and a 50 percent increased risk of dementia, with isolated seniors suffering “a mortality rate comparable to that linked to smoking, obesity, excessive alcohol consumption, and physical inactivity.”

The pandemic has made it even more difficult for seniors to meet their social needs, with senior centers, day programs, and other public spaces closed. Many nursing homes have even barred all family members from visiting their loved ones. PACE can be the answer to this crisis, enabling seniors to remain home while still receiving exceptional medical care and socialization and activities.

In the time of Covid-19, it’s clear to me that PACE delivered safely in the home with social engagement is the single best option for seniors to stay healthy, active, and engaged while also more protected from the virus.

Like just about everyone these days, our programs have had to adapt during the pandemic. Historically, the PACE model has been centered around a day center, where participants receive medical treatments and physical therapy, socialize with friends and caregivers, and enjoy meals and activities. We’ve transitioned rapidly to deliver care and services remotely, to participants in their own homes.

We’ve rapidly adjusted the way we deliver care, closing our day centers until it’s safe to reopen and launching a remote care model to serve participants in their homes

At WelbeHealth, our PACE programs around California have shifted to a new model of care we’re calling HomePACE, delivering the same suite of services without the physical day center. We started by deploying 4G LTE “WelbeLink” tablets to participants’ homes. Our care teams use the devices to maintain regular video communications with seniors, making hundreds of calls per day to manage medical needs and complete social and behavioral health check-ins.

To contain the spread of the virus, we’ve moved our entire clinical and administrative team to a work-from-home model, never having two team members in the same room unless absolutely necessary for patient care. When in-person medical care is required, it’s done by a single caregiver in the home whenever possible, minimizing potential exposures to Covid-19. Our teams are also completing regular deliveries of medical supplies and meals to participants who need them, and we’re even resuming many of our usual games and social activities remotely via video.

Other PACE programs around the country are also innovating to continue serving seniors during this time. PACE Southeast Michigan partnered with a local grocer to deliver essential care packages of fresh food to participants each morning. LIFE Senior Services in Oklahoma hosted a drive-thru breakfast for its members. Care Resources PACE in Michigan secured a grant to launch telehealth services for its participants. CHA PACE in Massachusetts partnered with a local paramedic firm to provide 24/7 in-home care for Covid-positive patients. PACE programs in North Carolina helped seniors access live streams of religious services. From the beginning, PACE has been built around nimble and creative solutions to meet seniors’ needs, so it’s no surprise that so many programs across the country have been able to adapt to care for their participants.

Despite its long track record of success, PACE still has a massive opportunity for growth. Even in the healthcare community, many physicians and medical professionals are just learning about the program for the first time. PACE serves just over 50,000 seniors today, but the estimated eligible population is much larger: 2 million or more. Recent regulatory changes have begun to enable programs to grow more quickly and efficiently, and demand is growing as more seniors and families learn about the program.

For those of us who know PACE already, the case is clear. It’s the model of care I’d want for myself as a physician and for my senior family members.

Years from now, when we reflect on Covid-19, we’ll remember all the challenges we faced and the tragic loss of so many lives. I hope, though, that we’ll also be able to appreciate one bright spot: a turning point in the way we think about caring for the most vulnerable people in our communities. In the face of this pandemic, it’s more apparent to me than ever before that PACE has the potential to become the “gold standard” of care for frail seniors across our country.

….read more.

For more on WelbeHealth services that safely provide comprehensive care for seniors so that they can live more independently, click here.