Seattle, like the rest of the nation, is getting grayer. According to U.S. census data, between 2007 and 2017, the number of the city’s adults aged 55 and older grew by 31%. High costs, overburdened caregivers and a shortage of healthcare workers are just a few of the challenges that face an aging population.
International Community Health Services (ICHS), a non-profit health center based in the Chinatown-International District, is responding with an innovative healthy aging program.
ICHS PACE, which stands for Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly, aims to keep seniors living independently, and out of hospitals and nursing homes by supporting and acknowledging every aspect of health, from social to dietary needs. The wide range of long-term benefits includes primary and specialized medical care, in-home care, prescriptions, meals, nutritional counseling, social work, personal care, physical therapy, occupational therapy and recreational therapy, to name a few.
“PACE is team based,” said Dr. Ric Troyer, ICHS PACE medical director. “The team talks together about patients and their concerns. A team-crafted care plan that is individualized is a much more robust way to take care of a person to help them meet their goals.”
Dr. Troyer provides primary care at the ICHS PACE center at Legacy House, which also houses a 75-bed assisted living facility. The team approach doesn’t just result in better and more cost-effective care, it results in a system that is much easier for patients and their caregivers to navigate. Instead of shuttling to-and-from a patchwork of providers and services, participants obtain care at “one-stop” based on a plan unique to their needs.
“I don’t know of a better model for caring for and supporting elderly people who want to live in their own home,” said Dr. Troyer. “With PACE, caregivers don’t have to feel alone navigating choices. They have support.”
Dr. Troyer points out that people tend to be happier and healthier living at home. “Home has a lot of importance to a lot of people,” he said. “Cognitive impairment can create confusion when you take people out of their routine. For some, social connections are important. They’ve worked out systems to be safe with neighbors. If you move to a new location, you break those social connections.”
The focus on keeping people within their community is particularly important for many long-time residents within the Chinatown-International District. Most are Asian American immigrants with limited English proficiency. Remaining near familiar friends, shops and sources of recreation is central to their identity and sense of belonging.
“I feel more comfortable,” said Guijuan Chen, an ICHS PACE program participant. “I can’t regularly meet my friends if I live in a nursing home. I can’t communicate. No one will speak Chinese.”
ICHS PACE program staff and providers speak a number of Asian languages and dialects. Lunches and snacks reflect Asian tastes and group activities include Mahjong and Taichi.
Chen, a retired practicing physician for more than 40 years, is an enthusiastic supporter. She feels the intensive care she’ll receive from the program will help her better manage chronic conditions, including hypertension and sciatica. She can remain active in her dancing group and tend her patch at the Danny Woo Community Garden.
“PACE provides medical assistance and help 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” she said. “I have confidence in my care team and Dr. Troyer, and their ability to manage my health all at one center.”
Eligibility and enrollment
PACE is geared specifically for people who are nursing-home eligible, having difficulty staying independent and need assistance with their daily function or activities. It is open to seniors age 55 with disabilities, or those age 65 or older, who reside in the PACE service area and are able to live safely in the community with PACE services. There are no costs or out-of-pocket expenses for Medicare and Medicaid-eligible participants. ICHS PACE at Legacy House is currently accepting applications. For more information, call: 206-462-7100.