The 2018 Winter Olympics ended recently, and every athlete who participated is to be commended for the years of effort which preceded their participation in the Games. These athletes set specific goals and developed detailed plans for a path to achieve their objectives. Many older adults have a goal of remaining in their own homes for as long as possible, yet make little effort to even think about, much less act on, plans to make this goal a reality.
There are many “what if” situations which can occur as we age, and planning for all of them is obviously an impossible task. An awareness of available services is one method of beginning preparation for the possibility that one day an individual might require assistance. Obtaining assistance as early as possible may help prevent or reduce the severity of a crisis later on.
A unique program exists which can help older adults remain in their homes even if they require a significant amount of care or supervision. Many people are not aware of this program, despite its presence in our community for a number of years. LIFE (Living Independence for the Elderly) opened its doors in Cumberland County in 2014. Nationally, this program is known as PACE (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly), but Pennsylvania altered the name due to the state pharmaceutical program which was already using the name PACE.
Robin Arnold, the Center Manager of SpiriTrust Lutheran LIFE in Cumberland County, shared some of the stories of individuals and families who are thriving as a result of this program. One woman, who has multiple conditions including cancer, kidney disease, and heart disease; was on a roller coaster of frequent hospitalizations. Without LIFE, she believes she would have died. Instead, she is able to continue to live alone while receiving services including medication management, careful monitoring of her dialysis, an emergency response system, and daily home care. Another participant who has diabetes and visual impairments is also able to continue living independently after the program assisted her to obtain a seeing-eye dog. A gentleman who is wheelchair bound and was placed in a nursing home following a hospitalization was able to move out of the nursing home and in with his son. With the assistance of another son and the LIFE team, this gentleman is able to live safely at home while both sons continue to work.
LIFE approaches health care from an interdisciplinary perspective, which means that a variety of professionals work together with the participant and family to directly provide the services which a participant might need, including medical care, home care, adult day services, and therapy. In addition, the program coordinates all specialized services to save participants time and energy and to promote continuity of care. The professional team at LIFE includes a physician, a nurse practitioner, nurses, therapists (physical, occupational, and speech), a social worker, a dietician, a home care coordinator, a transportation coordinator, and a recreational therapist who meet together regularly to review and adapt each participant’s care plan. This differs from a multidisciplinary approach, which involves a group of professionals working independently of each other to care for the same patient. Interdisciplinary coordination of care is designed to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of services so that participants may enjoy better health outcomes and an improved quality of life.
All LIFE programs are governed by the same federal regulations, but may be operated by independent organizations. The Cumberland/Perry and Franklin County programs are operated by SpiriTrust Lutheran. Dauphin County’s program is called Senior LIFE.
Eligibility for the LIFE program depends upon a variety of factors. An individual must live in an area which is serviced by a LIFE program. These areas are defined by zip code. The individual must be 55 years of age or older, require a nursing home level of care as designated by the local Office of Aging, and be able to safely live in the community with appropriate supportive services.
What makes this program even more interesting is that all services are provided for a flat monthly fee. For those who pay privately, the cost is about half of the cost of a nursing home. Medicare will contribute to the cost of this program for those who are enrolled, and Medicaid will completely cover the cost. Eligibility for Medicaid is dependent upon a variety of factors, and Keystone Elder Law P.C. can help you determine if this option is available to you.
For more information, visit www.SpiriTrustLutheranLIFE.org or call 800-840-9081 if you live in Cumberland, Franklin, or Perry Counties. If you live in Dauphin County, visit www.seniorlifepa.com or call 717-234-5433.
Karen Kaslow, RN, BSN