Keeping seniors active in their communities and providing the services and care they need to remain healthy at home is a growing service model in long-term care. One of its most passionate champions is Maureen Hewitt, president and CEO of InnovAge, one of the largest PACE programs in the United States, with centers in Colorado, California and New Mexico. InnovAge helps older adults and disabled individuals remain in their homes by offering a broad range of services.
Hewitt, a 25-year veteran of the long-term care (LTC) industry, says most seniors want to stay in their home as long as possible and should be given the tools to help them do that. The LTC industry is noticing this need, she says, and is stepping up to help make it happen. Advanced technology is delivering products that bridge the gap between aging parents and their adult children, many of whom live states apart. Likewise, construction companies are becoming savvier with home modifications that make living spaces safer and more accommodating.
Long-Term Living recently spoke with Hewitt about the role that PACE programs like InnovAge play in the ever-evolving senior living industry, and how the industry is responding to the need to help older adults age in their own homes.
TELL US MORE ABOUT THE PACE PROGRAM.
PACE stands for the Program for All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly. It was the first full at-risk healthcare program that was done by a three-way agreement between the state that you operate in, the federal government and yourself as the provider. The folks who come into a PACE program receive all services and everything is inclusive to what they need.
Our program is focused on providing services that keep older seniors—frail seniors—out of institutionalized environments. We work with nursing homes because there are people who need to use nursing homes. [But] most people are trying to make sure that they stay in their own homes or that they are in a lower level of care as they get older. PACE pays for all healthcare services. So if your mom came into our program there are no co-pays if you need assisted living or surgery, and all of our medicines are included. It is funded by Medicaid and Medicare dollars and Part D for pharmacies. And so it is a great program and it really matches what today’s senior is looking for.
HOW FEASIBLE IS IT FOR OLDER ADULTS TO STAY IN THEIR HOMES LONGER?
It is a reality, and it’s becoming more of a reality. [Older adults] are staying in their own homes and having some minimal construction done to their home to help them to stay—to make sure their doorways are wide enough and their bathrooms are more accessible. And the [housing] development and construction industry is becoming much more familiar with home modifications.
We have a program called InnovAge Care Management that allows us to help coordinate the care for older adults so that they can stay at home. We help them with all the pieces such as figuring out primary care and specialty care, getting home care and even getting the home set up for renovation and remodel. I think it is very doable today as more people want to remain at home.
HOW IS TECHNOLOGY HELPING SENIORS RECEIVE CARE IN THEIR ENVIRONMENT OF CHOICE?
Technology is a very expansive area. Companies like Intel are very much involved in assisting folks with the right software to put in their homes. [Technology facilitates] the ability to connect if your son or daughter lives in another state enabling them to speak with each other through email, video conferencing or other types of software. Technology plays a role in medication reminders and alert systems that help with seniors who are dealing with dementia.
HOW DO PACE PROGRAMS HELP THE SANDWICH GENERATION?
When you think of the sandwich generation it is the son or daughter who is probably in their 50s and their kids are in college and their parents are starting to decline. And often one of those children will take the lead in caring for that parent while they are working full time and taking care of their kids. There are economic pressures and obviously emotional stress that occurs in that generation. That is where these services come into play—especially if a son or daughter has to leave their job and take care of mom or dad. That is the economic effect. But there is an emotional impact in doing that as well. So that is where programs like PACE or Innovage Care Management come in and really become the right arm in that family to help pull things together during a pretty stressful time.