Neighborhood PACE Helps Older Adults Stay Independent

Theresa grew up in the North End during the Great Depression. She one was of eight children. Her mother was an avid reader and worked as a bookkeeper, despite having only completed eighth grade. “We were very poor, but everyone was very poor. Those were the Depression days, so no one had anything. But we were very happy. Sometimes, the less you have, the happier you are,” Theresa advises.

When Theresa’s husband Joseph passed away 5 years ago, they had been married for 65 years. “I had a great man; they don’t make them like him anymore,” Theresa says. “I had only known him 18 days when we were engaged. He was in the Army on leave when we met, and his company was being sent to Japan. That month, I read the GI list and learned that his ship was diverted so he was coming back to Boston. Had he not come home then, I would have never married him.” They waited six years before having a son, Peter. “My son is a wonderful boy, like his dad.”

Theresa found Neighborhood PACE when her husband needed more care than she and Peter could provide. Peter recalls being initially unsure about the program’s many benefits. “When my mother told me that my father was going to enroll in PACE, she explained the program to me, but I was skeptical. We already had care providers, after all. Could the program really be that great? But they did a wonderful job for my father. They coordinated everything on our behalf. I think they added a couple of years to his life.”

After her husband passed away, Theresa found herself living alone in their two-family home in East Boston. “My son wanted me to sell the house and live with him. But I didn’t want to do that; I wanted my independence,” she explains. “So he and his wife, Ronda, ended up moving into the upstairs apartment.” To get the medical support she needed, Theresa knew that the PACE program was the right choice for her. She enrolled in East Boston Neighborhood Health Center’s PACE program and started visiting the PACE center three times a week. A health aide also comes to Theresa’s house to help her get dressed in the morning.

Peter is happy to see his mother doing so well. “With all of the different things that I have to do at work—and I have a family as well—the PACE program has been a godsend. It’s provided real peace of mind. I can’t tell you how many times I used to hop in the car late at night and come down from West Peabody because my parents needed help. Now I have peace of mind, and my mother has excellent health care. No stone is unturned.”

Theresa enthusiastically shares her son’s opinion of the medical care she receives at Neighborhood PACE. “If I need surgery or if I need a specialist, I get the care I need. They send you to the best that they have.”

Twice a year, the PACE program visits Theresa’s home to assess her environment for safety and accessibility, making sure she has all the adaptive equipment she needs. Theresa especially appreciates the PACE program’s transportation service, which picks her up for medical appointments and brings her back home. She’s also grateful that her medications are delivered in convenient packages, and that she’s no longer bothered with co-pays and bills from care providers.

Peter likes being able to fully collaborate in his mother’s care. “The Neighborhood PACE team gives me updates all the time, and I can always call with any questions. My mother’s primary care doctor is wonderful, and her nurse practitioner is outstanding. She’ll get right back to you and go from A to Z. She never rushes you on the phone, and she’s great at following up. Our entire family is thrilled—myself, my wife, and my children. They’re very proud of my mother. She’s a vivacious person—her mind is going all the time. If it weren’t for the PACE program picking her up and taking her to do things, she’d be alone at home most of the time. I’m a huge fan of the Neighborhood PACE program.”

Since becoming a member of Neighborhood PACE, Theresa has seen a big increase in her quality of life. One of Theresa’s functional goals had been to hang her own clothes in her closet. “I couldn’t do this,” she laughs, lifting her arms over her head. “My son had to come downstairs and hang them up for me.” This accomplishment helped Theresa regain her independence.

Theresa feels very fortunate to be part of the Neighborhood PACE program. Some of her family members who live in other areas of the country don’t have access to the same level of care. “My relatives can’t believe the care I get. They can’t believe it. This place is amazing. I could never pay Neighborhood PACE back for what it’s done for us.”

For more information, or if you or someone you know is interested in enrolling, call Neighborhood PACE at 617-568-6377, or visit them online at http://www.neighborhood pace.org.