PACE of Southeast Michigan Seeks to Improve Quality of Life for Seniors


September 27, 2018

In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control determined that Americans are living longer. Living longer can be a good thing, but it also brings questions about attaining a good quality of life as one ages.

For many aging Americans, PACE serves the needs of day-to-day life. PACE stands for Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly. The program has its origins in the 1970s, when the first adult day health center was launched in California to provide daytime care and supervision to frail elderly residents. Both the idea and the program grew, and it was eventually given the catchy name and able to receive both federal and state funding. PACE currently operates centers in 31 states, including Michigan.

PACE is a program which strives to address any needs a frail older person may have. PACE is both the health insurance provider and the primary health care provider for enrolled participants. This care model makes PACE unique in that it allows the program some flexibility in meeting the needs of participants. As insurance provider, PACE eliminates wrangling with a health insurance company in an effort to secure necessary medical tests, prescriptions, or specialty services. It also eliminates the need to search for a provider who accepts your particular insurance plan or to cough up co-pays or deductibles.

PACE of Southeast Michigan provides for all clinical and medical needs of participants, along with nutritional needs, social interaction needs, behavioral needs, and specialty health needs such as rheumatology or cardiology. PACE takes care of transportation issues with a fleet of more than 60 buses. The goal of PACE is to keep elderly residents safe in their own homes. To accomplish this, PACE also assists with home care needs and family/caregiver support needs. Mary Naber is president and CEO of PACE of Southeast Michigan. She says, "I think what is most important about PACE is that we take care of chronically ill, low-income, aging adults so that they can remain independent for as long as possible."

It sounds costly, but Naber emphasizes that when someone enrolls in the program there is no out of pocket cost involved. While all services are eligible to be paid for through Medicare and Medicaid, there are a handful of participants who go the route of private pay. Naber adds that PACE is "fully at risk," meaning that if a participant goes to the hospital, the bill is sent to PACE and they pay it. This means that PACE works to ensure its participants do not need hospital visits by providing healthcare and preventive services at its day centers. "So we work really hard to take care of them here and in their home...which improves their quality of life," she says.

New enrollees to the PACE Program are assigned a social worker who assesses the participant's needs. The social worker coordinates with a team which can include a dietician, a physical therapist or a behavioral specialist, to meet an individual's needs. "It's an interdisciplinary team model," says Naber, "it's not a doctor-driven model."

PACE of Southeast Michigan operates four Day Health Centers in Southfield, Detroit, Warren, and Dearborn. Transportation from home to the day center is provided. Laurie Arora, Director of Public Affairs and Philanthropy for PACE of Southeast Michigan, says most participants spend three to four hours a day at the day center, two to five days a week. They receive breakfast and lunch, a health check if needed at the clinic, and cognitive and social stimulation via interaction with others and activities such as crafts, table games, even dancing. If a participant is without a washing machine and needs laundry done, Arora says they can bring it with them and it is done at the center while they visit.

The centers also have a staff of volunteers who work with program participants by playing cards, helping with crafts, assisting with outings, or just visiting and talking.

For the past two years, PACE of Southeast Michigan has maintained a philanthropy branch of service. Arora says the program accepts monetary donations which are used only for program participant needs, such as electricity shut-off or emergency such as replacing a hot water tank. Arora says such things may be necessary in order to keep an aging adult safe in their home.

There are eligibility requirements to enroll in the program, and program participants give up the freedom to see their own choice of doctor. The benefits or being part of the program are real, however. They include a higher quality of life and lower cost insurance for all due to keeping aging residents in their own homes and out of costly nursing facilities. Growth of the program is testament to its success. Naber says PACE of Southeast Michigan has plans for opening a new Day Health Center in Sterling Heights by the end of this year. Future sites for Day Health Centers will be in Pontiac, Westland, Livonia, and Wyandotte. The reason behind this growth? "The people are there to be served," says Naber.

For more information on PACE, call 1-855-445-4554 or see the organization's website at


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