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Cleveland seniors ditching nursing homes for alternative at-home care program looking to expand services

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Posted at 6:46 AM, Jan 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-25 08:32:22-05

CLEVELAND — Throughout the pandemic, we've seen cases spike in nursing homes across the state and now older adults are considering alternative programs to get them the help they need.

“I needed help and family, everybody was working in my family,” she said.

Brenda Brown lives by herself and has several underlying health issues. She says her family is there for her and helping her around the house when they could, but often it meant they’d have to call off work or make arrangements to care for Brown. So, in 2011 she turned to McGregor Pace for more support.

“They send an aide to my home to help me do things, they send a nurse out when I need one,” Brown explained.

The McGregor Pace staff at the Langston Hughes Center provide aides, nurses, transportation to doctor appointments and whatever else seniors like Brown may need to keep them living at home and away from a nursing home where COVID-19 has tragically put residents at risk.

“I needed the support and they gave that to me," she said.

Seniors have been a covid target since the beginning of the pandemic and numbers from the Ohio Department of Health show it. As of October, 54% of Ohio’s COVID-19 related deaths have been in nursing homes. According to a report by the Center for Community Solutions (CCS), that’s 40% higher than the national rate.

Even as some nursing home residents and staff have started vaccinations, which many have declined doses, positive cases are still a problem. Just last week, on Jan 20, the state reported 128 cases in Cuyahoga County nursing homes. There were 23 in Lorain County that week and 64 in Summit County. It's why the McGregor Pace team is pushing for solutions to offering seniors an alternative support and community-based option.

But about 66,000 of Ohio’s eligible seniors have yet to take advantage of the program and its resources. CCS says PACE initiatives currently operate in 31 states with a total of 135 programs and more than 54,000 participants. Though, the National PACE Association estimates only about 16.2 of Ohioans are enrolled. Still, we're told 97% of those enrolled in the are satisfied with it and have had less emergency room visits.

“I'm just glad I'm able to be at home and not be anywhere else and be safe and do what I know to do to stay safe,” Brown said. “Knowing that I don't have to be somewhere that I don't want to be and I'm in my own surroundings. It's a benefit for me.”

According to the McGregor Pace website, its mission is to resolve the shortage of affordable senior housing with services and double the amount of PACE participants in Cuyahoga County in 5 years. However, officials note plans to expand across the state with the support of policymakers.