Home Is Where The Seniors Are
St. Paul’s PACE (Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly) is a unique senior day care and medical program. Its mission is to help seniors live independently in their own homes.
There are 166 PACE centers in 29 states—California is home to five of them.
At age 84, Leroy Easterly attends the only PACE center in the county, which is located a few miles from his home in downtown San Diego.
A couple of times a week, Easterly borrows a guitar from the day care center. He begins to strum as he introduces his first song.
“This is called "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You," said Easterly. "It goes something like this...”
In between songs, Easterly explained that coming to PACE has kept him young.
“I don’t really feel like I’m 84—I really feel like I’m 64 some days,” he said with a smile.
But its not his age or frail health that prompted his daughter, Julie Gallegos, to enroll Easterly in PACE, just after it opened three years ago.
“It’s difficult when you’re working and I didn’t want to leave him home all by himself—he’s a very sociable person. He wanted to get out of the house to do something and be with people,” said Gallegos.
Curran Gaughan is a social worker at St. Paul’s PACE in San Diego. He explained the center provides the services a medically or mentally frail senior needs under one roof.
“We provide everything, including premium medical care, specialty medical care, X-Rays, physical therapy, occupational therapy and we have a day care center with activities and meals,” Gaughan said.
To Qualify For PACE:
• Adult age 55 years or older
• Live in designated zip code
• Have medical issues that require nursing home care
• Able to be in community setting safely
Go here to find out more about the PACE Program or call (619) 677-3800.
Nationwide, 23,000 seniors attend PACE centers, which Gaughan calls a “radical medical model” that saves families and the government money.
“It’s cost effective. We did a recent study that found compared to skilled nursing care, this program saves the state of California 13 percent,” said Gaughan.
Services for the 250 seniors who attend the San Diego center include assisted showers or baths, free laundry service and housekeeping in the senior's own home.
Easterly and his daughter really like the on site medical center, complete with a full-time doctor, nurses and free transportation vans.
“They have doctors here, but if he needs a specialist or his own doctor, they will take him to his doctors visits, which is great, because it’s tough to take time off a lot from work to get him to his appointments,” said Easterly’s daughter.
Easterly didn’t comment, because he was busy eating a four-course hot lunch with 60 or so other seniors. They were seated at cloth-covered tables.
“We serve them one course at a time, on separate plates, not plastic trays. It is not cafeteria style. We’ve designed it like a restaurant, and they are served individually,“ explained Amanda Dunkin, marketing director at St. Paul’s PACE.
Easterly admits he should probably come to the lunches and center more than he does.
“They like me to come Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. But I wiggle out of Fridays, so I can go see my girlfriend,” he said as he picked up the guitar again.
Easterly said he met his 92-year-old girlfriend after his wife died.
“Her name is Wadine Wick, I’ve known her for 20 years.”
With that, he began to strum a few chords and sing another love song to Miss Wick.
PACE have plans to open two more centers in San Diego county within the next few years.