LONG BEACH, Calif. — It is a difficult balancing act. On one hand seniors need care and attention and yet on the other when they are grouped together in living situations it becomes a hotbed for COVID-19. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reports more than 30,000 deaths due to coronavirus in American nursing homes.
There is an alternative.
Bernadette McCoy, 75, spends a lot of time on the phone with family as well as caregivers.
“Someone calls me all the time checking on my welfare and I appreciate that, I really do. One of my friends is here now,” said McCoy, referencing her social worker.
McCoy is in a program called PACE, which stands for Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly. It’s an alternative to assisted living facilities. The program coordinates her medical care and social activities through a combination of virtual and in-person interactions.
Each senior is different and their care program is customized.
“I don’t want to lose my independence cause I don’t like staying with other people,” McCoy said.
A PACE facility opened June 1 in Long Beach. It’s a hub where members come a few times a week to socialize, eat, and see caregivers. However, no one has used it yet because of the stay-at-home order.
Without brick and mortar places to touch base, the program relies on phones and tablets.
There are several PACE doctors who are available any time and claim the program results in fewer hospital visits and cases of depression.
“What I love about this model is that you have a lot more freedom as a physician to do what you think is the absolute most right thing,” said Dr. Colin Robinson, PACE medical director.
McCoy was all in when she learned it’s totally covered by Medi-Cal and Medicare for people 55 and older.
“It sounds funny when I call myself elderly, but I am. I had a hard time accepting that a couple of years ago, but I’m okay with it now though,” McCoy said.