Story by Jake Strickbine
The freedom to come and go as she chooses is just one of the many things Alva Lee Holmes loves about living on her own.
At 97, Holmes knows having her own apartment is somewhat of a luxury. Part of an independent senior living community, it’s a life she doesn’t take for granted.
“I was 97 last month and to me I’m in good health and I didn’t used to be. When I was younger, I wasn’t,” Holmes said.
A few years ago, she was struggling with her health, worried she wouldn’t be able to live on her own much longer.
“I had a tumor in my thyroid, and I lost weight something terrible and my doctor never asked me why I was losing,” she said.
That’s when she learned about Valir PACE, a local program that is revolutionizing care for seniors who would otherwise require nursing home care.
Holmes saw a friend was benefiting from the program, so she quickly signed up, too.
“PACE is a holistic vision of taking care and a wellness program being proactive and not just chasing the injury, chasing whatever is wrong with an individual, but treating the whole of the individual,” said Jake Brownlow, President of Oklahoma City based Valir PACE.
It is a personalized and comprehensive approach that includes doctor visits, physical and occupational therapy, meals, medication, and transportation — an approach that allows seniors like Holmes to remain independent.
“I’m a lot healthier now than I was before I came,” she said.
Illness, falls and other injuries can quickly result in seniors losing their independence.
In fact, more than 17,000 Oklahoma seniors currently live in nursing homes. Yet, 48% of those homes rank below the national average for care, according to Medicare.gov. So finding a better option is a priority for many seniors.
February is National Senior Independence Month, a time when senior independence advocates stress that with the right care seniors can live independently longer.
“That’s the benefit of this program, it lengthens that time that they’re able to spend with their family and their care circles, with their church, with their friends and their neighbors,” Brownlow said.
In some cases, the Valir PACE team is even able to help seniors make necessary improvements to their homes, such as adding safety bars in bathtubs and showers, and ramps to help them get in and out of their homes.
PACE delivers medications to participants each week, helping ensure they don’t miss a dose due to cost or other factors.
It’s given Holmes the freedom to live life the way she wants, while still getting the care she needs.
“I don’t think I would be in this good of health if I didn’t come here to Valir PACE. I really don’t know that I would be here,” she said.
The program is currently working to help more seniors across Oklahoma get the care they need to remain independent longer. They recently opened a new Alternative Care site in Choctaw. And, they have plans to open additional sites across the state.
To learn more about the program, visit http://www.valirpace.org/ or call 405-609-3688.