On Friday PACE at ArchCare Senior Life — the Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) run by the Archdiocese of New York — accomplished what might be considered a monumental feat for any healthcare provider: getting COVID-19 vaccinations into the arms of 300 homebound New York City seniors in just two weeks.

But heading into the process, PACE at ArchCare Vice President Elizabeth Rosado knew she held a powerful trump card: the sooner PACE members get shots, the sooner they can come back to PACE centers and be among their friends.

Elizabeth Rosado, VP, PACE at ArchCare

“They feel so isolated, so the key to opening the centers is vaccination. People were agreeing if this was what they had to do to come back,” Rosado told McKnight’s Home Care Daily.

PACE is a Medicaid and Medicare program providing services to frail seniors who qualify for skilled nursing but want to live at home. Medical care, therapy and activities are normally provided in centers, but during the pandemic those services have been delivered either virtually or at home.

PACE at ArchCAre operates four centers in the New York City metropolitan area, serving 735 seniors. As of Friday, 75% of PACE ArchCare clients had been vaccinated. The average in the region is about 35%.

Rosado admits vaccine hesitancy has been a problem, but she said PACE has an advantage in convincing clients to get shots. “(The seniors) have relationships with our social workers and our doctors, so there is trust there,” Rosado said.

National growth

PACE programs could be poised for expansion. The National PACE Association said the program has kept COVID-19 infection rates to a third of what they have been in skilled nursing facilities. That could be especially significant to New Yorkers where controversy has swirled recently over the state’s undercounting of nursing home deaths from the virus.

President Joseph Biden’s proposal to pump $400 billion into the care economy could also benefit home-and-community-based (HCBS) programs like PACE. And in a report last week, the Milken Institute recommended expanding PACE to meet the needs of an aging America.

Rosado said PACE at ArchCare is seizing on any opportunity to expand. It will soon begin offering vaccinations at its Harlem center to some non-PACE community members and will introduce them to the program while they are there.

“We have a video our marketing department has put together that they can watch while they are being monitored after their vaccines have been given. They can listen to what PACE actually does,” Rosado said.

May reopening

PACE at ArchCare plans to reopen all of its centers by early May. That could prove to be an even bigger marketing opportunity for Rosado.

“We have been the biggest, best kept secret. I can’t think of a person that I bring into the center that doesn’t say ‘wow, I didn’t even know this existed,’” Rosado said.

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