We are always on the lookout for great stories and we stumbled on the one below from a NACHC member, East Boston Neighborhood Health Center (EBNHC) just in time to mark Older Americans Month. EBNHC operates a program called Neighborhood PACE, 1 of 121 PACE programs across the nation and the first in the Bay State. It serves residents age 55 and over who meet the program’s clinical and financial eligibility criteria and live in East Boston, Chelsea, Revere, Everett, Winthrop, Malden, Medford, Melrose, Stoneham, or Boston’s North End. The PACE Program helps older adults age in place by enabling them to stay healthy, active, and independent. Since this year’s theme for Older Americans Month is Engage at Every Age, we wanted to showcase how a health center makes that possible for seniors in the community. To learn more about PACE, read Successful Practices in Accountable Care: Piedmont Health Services, Inc.’s PACE Program in our Best Practices Series.
Reprinted from Neighborhood Pace Newsletter April 26, 2018
Valerie Scott grew up in Arlington, MA, with her mother, father, and two younger brothers, Ronnie and Phillip. “We were considered pretty poor at that time,” says Valerie. “We lived in a one-bedroom third-floor apartment. We all slept in the same bedroom.”
Valerie’s father worked to support the family, but he suffered from a series of health issues. “My father was a very sickly man,” explains Valerie. “He had very bad asthma.” In 1959, when she was 13, her father passed away. “So then my mom just had me and my two brothers.”
Three years later, Valerie’s mother, Barbara, remarried a man named Al. They would remain married for 51 years until he passed away. They stayed in the Waltham/Watertown area until the children were grown, eventually moving out to Marlborough and then Littleton.
Meanwhile, when Valerie was 21, she became engaged to a man named Ronnie. Although things didn’t work out, they had a son, Billy. After they separated, Valerie met Ray, a divorcé with four children. “After we got married, we had three more children,” says Valerie. After Rick, Sherrie, and Christine were born, life was good for the large blended family. But then tragedy struck. In 1985, Valerie’s oldest son-14-year-old Billy-died in a tragic gun accident while babysitting. Just a year later, Valerie’s beloved husband fell ill and passed away. Valerie found herself walking in her mother’s footsteps, coping with grief while working and raising children alone.
But life went on. “I was living on the North Shore. Eventually my kids grew up and moved out,” says Valerie. Today, her children are all in their late 30s and early 40s. The oldest, Rick, is 43. He’s married and has an eight-year-old daughter, Danica. Sherrie has two sons, Jacob and Avery. Christine, the youngest, works for JetBlue as a ticketer. Because of Christine’s position, Valerie has been able to travel a lot. “I’ve been to Costa Rica, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, California, Washington, Alaska, Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico. Santa Monica was my favorite in California. Costa Rica was lovely,” she says fondly.
With her children gone, eventually Valerie moved to Victory Gardens Apartments on Orleans Street in East Boston. As she grew older, life became more difficult. “I had Medicaid, and was going to have to buy a supplement. But they were so expensive, and I had big copays.”
Eventually, Valerie learned about Neighborhood PACE. “I had a couple friends, Josie and Tom, who told me about the PACE program. It sounded great. At the time, I wasn’t able to pay for supplements and medications, but here at PACE, they told me that the medications would be paid for and that I wouldn’t have any copays.”
Valerie applied and joined the program in 2012 as part of the Lewis Mall PACE Center. “It’s the best thing that ever happened to me,” she says enthusiastically. “It gets me out of the house. When they opened the Wellness Center, I started coming here. I love it. We do so many different things here: dance classes, yoga classes, tai chi, working out, art classes, and cooking classes.”
In 2014, Valerie’s stepfather Al passed away, leaving her mother Barbara all alone in Littleton. “I didn’t want my mother living by herself, so she moved in with me, but that was tough.” Barbara needed a lot of help, which Valerie wasn’t always there to provide. “Once she almost called the police on me when I was gone for a few hours!” says Valerie with a laugh.
As both a PACE participant and the daughter of a participant, Valerie knows the value of the program for both individuals and their families. “For me it’s a great program. My children don’t have to worry about me. They know I’m happy. I feel great. If I ever have any problems they’re right there to help. I would absolutely, definitely recommend the program to a friend.”Valerie set up her mother to interview for PACE. Barbara successfully enrolled and moved into Prospect House. Valerie is grateful for the peace of mind it offers. “Now I don’t have to worry about my mother. When she and my stepfather lived out in Littleton, they didn’t really eat much aside from coffee and cigarettes. Now I know she’s eating well. She was on a lot of medications when she first went to the PACE program. Within six months she was off of a lot of her medications because she was doing so well. It’s a wonderful program. She’s 90 years old and we recently took her on her very first plane ride to visit family in Washington!”
It’s heartwarming to see Valerie and Barbara sharing benefits together. That’s what Neighborhood PACE is for — keeping families happier, healthier, and more independent.