Imagine having to choose between paying your electric bill or paying for your life-sustaining medications or food. For many seniors living on a fixed income, that is a difficult reality.
The price of medications continues soaring — over the last decade, research shows many of the top-selling, brand name medications have increased more than 50-percent, with more than half of them doubling in price, that’s according to the National Library of Medicine.
The cost of medications alone can leave them facing difficult choices every month.
“We never want a patient to have to make that decision of am I going to eat this week, am I going to have air conditioning this week, or am I going to pay for that blood pressure medication,” said Justin Henson, a nurse practitioner at Valir PACE in Oklahoma City.
September is National PACE Awareness Month. PACE stands for Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly. It is an approach that aims to bundle. It is a relatively new model of care that is gaining momentum across the United States. Valir is one of the first to implement the model in Oklahoma
The goal is to help more seniors, who otherwise would require nursing home care, continue to live independently in their own homes. It does that by bundling their medications, meals, transportation, physician visits, and therapy needs under one umbrella care plan, that also provides opportunities to socialize and be a part of the community.
The results are impressive – reducing hospitalizations and improving quality of life.
PACE participants, like Nick Felix, say the program has helped them to enjoy the life, despite the issues that come with aging. For Felix, heart issues top that list.
“My heart fibrillates whenever it wants to. It’s like dancing a Cha-Cha to a Waltz. You know you’re not in sync at all,” said Felix, a 90-year-old former dance teacher and movie choreographer, who still enjoys dancing at his favorite studio.
Henson has worked closely with Felix, helping him manage his health and medications to stay healthy and active.
“He’s had a very complicated cardiac history,” Henson said. “But he is a guy who will wake up every single morning doing his push-ups. He loves to go out and walk, he loves to go dancing every week.”
Managing the challenges of a complicated regimen of medications without the worry of cost is one aspect of PACE Felix likes best.
“Well, it’s lifesaving. I mean you’re talking about my heart medicine, my joint medicine, I’ve got all kinds of arthritic conditions — and they tell me when to take it, what to take and how much to take,” he remarked.
Medications are packaged and labeled for each day, and time of day for each participant and
Valir PACE provides those medications — helping eliminate the financial pressure off of rising drug costs for seniors.
“We do get a lot of patients who want to join our services and we note as they’re coming onto services that they have been without their medications for three months, four months,” Henson said. “Diving into why they have been without these medications, often it is they’re trying to pay for electricity or they’re trying to pay for food.”
Henson added ensuring seniors have their medications and take them as correctly can lead to better health outcomes and a better quality of life.
“If you have a medical condition, even if it’s a small medical condition, but it’s not treated, it can grow into a large medical condition,” he said. “Taking medications as prescribed, when prescribed is going to be the best way to keep you as healthy as possible, and as young as possible as long as possible.”
Valir PACE is located at 721 NW 6th Street in the heart of downtown and has just opened an Alternative Care setting at 2411 Main Street in Choctaw, expanding services to seniors living in that more rural part of the metro. To learn more, visit or the National PACE Association at