New facility addresses care for adults over 55

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By CHRISTINE BARCIA
Staff Writer
Beacon Health and Social Services, a not-for-profit corporation, has established the Beacon of LIFE center in Oceanport to deliver Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) services. With the opening of a new healthcare facility, care for older adults is now a little easier to come by in Monmouth County.

Beacon Health and Social Services, a not-for-profit corporation, established the Beacon of LIFE center in Oceanport to deliver Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) services.

The PACE model is centered on the belief it is better for the well-being of older adults with chronic care needs and their families to be served in the community whenever possible, according to the Beacon Health and Social Services website.

Specifically, elderly people “do better in their homes where they have some kind of vested interest and control,” said Carol Abaya, an expert on aging and elder/parent care issues.

“There are four criteria that must be met to become a participant,” said Susan Skola, executive director, Beacon of LIFE.

An individual must be 55 years of age or older; live in the service area of the Beacon of LIFE program in Monmouth County; meet the need for the nursing home level of care in New Jersey; and be able to live safely in the community with the help of PACE services, Skola said.

Beacon of LIFE, Skola said, is the insurer and the provider of health care in this model.

The next step after eligibility is determined involves an assessment of the potential participant’s home.

“Once assessments are done, we come up with an individualized care plan,” said Dr. Indira Kanouka, medical director at Beacon of LIFE.

Kanouka said Beacon of LIFE is like an “outpatient nursing home.”

“Participants don’t lose independence and dignity. They are still feeling independent and getting out to socialize,” Kanouka said. The facility, which has been open since Oct. 1, is at the site of a former hospital at Fort Monmouth and was in the planning and development process for more than two years.

“There is a daycare component to it,” Skola said.

Participants typically have their health issues addressed at the facility two to three days per week, and transportation is provided, Skola said.

“We work with the family to determine needs,” Skola said.

Beacon of LIFE is the fifth PACE program in New Jersey; the first started in Hamilton about six years ago, according to Skola.

“Demographers studied the (Monmouth County) area and found the need for support for the frail elderly,” Skola said.

“When caregivers come to us, they are desperate. They want a turnkey solution,” said Ivan Solero, director of marketing and enrollment at Beacon of LIFE.

Beacon of LIFE offers services in the following areas: primary care, social services, physical therapy, occupational therapy, nutritional services and meals, home care services, hospital care, emergency services, medical specialty services, prescription drugs, nursing home care, end of life care, dental care, adult daycare with recreational activities, laboratory and X-ray services and transportation, according to the group’s brochure.

“The PACE philosophy is a high touch and high delivery system. PACE is about a 360-degree approach to a participant’s health,” Solero said.

There is a comprehensive “hands on” approach where the emotional, physical, spiritual, social and fiscal issues are addressed together and managed together, Solero said.

“Every morning at our interdisciplinary teams meeting, we each ‘touch’ the participant, so to speak, weighing all factors within all disciplines in helping treat them,” Solero said.

Beacon of LIFE’s comprehensive approach to care addresses concerns among some people in the medical community that the healthcare system is in pieces.

“The health system is fragmented on every level. At the end, the patient and their families are required to coordinate the medical care on their own, which we all know is not an easy task,” Kanouka said.

According to the Beacon of LIFE brochure, all services that would normally be covered by Medicaid and Medicare are provided.

“There is a cost savings from PACE programs as it keeps people out of emergency rooms, nursing homes and hospitals,” Skola said.

If a participant qualifies for Medicare, all Medicare-covered services are paid for by PACE. If a participant also qualifies for the New Jersey State Medicaid program, the participant pays nothing for the long-term care portion of the PACE benefit.

If the participant does not qualify for Medicaid, the participant can pay privately a monthly premium to cover the long-term care portion of the PACE benefit.

PACE also covers Medicare Part D drugs, if eligible. There is no deductible or co-payment for services and care approved by PACE.

With a capacity for 300 patients, Beacon of LIFE has plenty of room to grow. There are now seven participants, ages 69 to 94, and 22 staff members, Kanouka said.

Beacon of LIFE is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the staff is on-call 24 hours per day, seven days per week.

“We are responsible until participants die or until they disenroll,” Skola said.

Solero said he and his team are educating the medical community and healthcare centers for the elderly to show them that “there is another choice.”