Don Smith spent most of his adult life serving others – as a soldier, volunteer fireman, and Kindergarten teacher. Sadly, life as a fireman and soldier left him with scars in the form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Unchecked, his condition led him to isolate himself, going so far as to move to a yurt, or portable tent home, in the middle of a forest.
When Don got sick and could no longer care for himself, he moved into an adult care home near Astoria, Oregon. It was there that he learned about ElderPlace, the Providence St. Joseph Health (PSJH) Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE). PACE is national program designed to help older adults live in a community setting for as long as possible by coordinating and providing all needed preventive, primary, acute and long-term care services. Don was interested in the medical care provided by ElderPlace, so he could continue receiving his PTSD medications. He couldn’t drive, and his VA facility didn’t offer transportation, so it was a constant struggle to go to his medical appointments.
ElderPlace solved this problem. As a PACE program, ElderPlace provides comprehensive health care for older adults. Those enrolled with ElderPlace receive complete medical care, social work services, medications, medical supplies, adult day care, in-home care, care coordination, rehabilitation and more. Participants attend the ElderPlace Center on a regular basis, and transportation is provided.
Don joined ElderPlace in 2015 and describes the program as a “godsend” because of the clinicians, activities, mental exercises, and the camaraderie with other participants. At enrollment he was greatly reassured when he learned his primary care clinician had advanced training in geriatric psychology. “She straightened me out with my meds,” he says with satisfaction.
Committed to treating participants with dignity, respect and compassion, ElderPlace connects seniors with peers in their community, often preventing isolation that can come with a loss of independence. The program also helps participants avoid nursing homes when possible, and receive the care and services necessary to help them stay safe, comfortable, and independent. For many participants, this means being able to stay in their own home or with their spouse.
For instance, more than seventy-three years ago, Claude Butler asked Lucille Zimmerman for a dance, then a date. Six months later, they were married. This couple has remained devoted to each other through all of life’s challenges; most recently through health issues and a loss of independence that has resulted in needing more help from others. With assistance from their daughters and their “family” at ElderPlace, they have been able to stay together, even while Claude was recovering from hip surgery and Lucille’s various conditions required extensive care.
“The PSJH ElderPlace program offers peace of mind to older adults and their families,” said Ellen Garcia, chief of PACE programs in Oregon. “We ensure their health needs are met, which improves quality of life and helps them enjoy their remaining years with dignity and a sense of community.”
Part of PSJH Home and Community Care, ElderPlace serves more than 1,500 participants in Oregon and more than 700 participants in Washington. In 2018, PSJH made a total community benefit investment of $3 million to support this program in Oregon and Washington.