senior health

WelbeHealth’s newest facility for seniors is located on Fourth Street in Long Beach.

The golden years have turned into the scary years with the arrival of COVID-19.

At least 54,000 residents and workers have died from the coronavirus at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities for older adults in the United States, according to a database compiled by the New York Times. By the end of June, the virus has infected more than 282,000 people at more than 12,000 facilities nationwide.

In California, where there are 923 facilities, there have been more than 2,800 deaths in long-term care facilities, and according to the Long Beach Health and Human Services Department, 134 deaths have been associated with long-term care facilities in Long Beach.

Many families are not aware that there are other alternatives besides skilled nursing or assisted living facilities, especially during this health crisis.

WelbeHealth is an operator of PACE (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly) across California. Its newest facility is in Long Beach at 1220 E. Fourth St., but because of the coronavirus pandemic, no one is visiting the location. Instead, the company has transitioned to a remote, at-home care model to serve seniors while keeping them physically shielded from the spread of the virus.

According to Sophia Guel-Valenzuela, regional vice president and executive director of the Long Beach facility, having seniors in a PACE program is a safer alternative because it can provide all necessities, meal deliveries throughout the day, assistance in the home and meaningful social engagement.

“There has never been a stronger imperative to keep seniors living more independently in their homes and communities,” she said. “Our goal is to keep seniors socially engaged through games and special events. It’s important to keep people safe.”

Guel-Valenzuela said each client gets a 4G LTE tablet to use that enables them to talk to a doctor or a social worker as well as interacting with other people.

“The highlight of my week is to see the engagement going on,” she said. “Engagement coordinators host trivia games, bingo, card games. It’s like a big Zoom meeting.”

Guel-Valenzuela believes the combination of staying at home with interactivity is the template of the future for senior care.

“It’s safer to stay at home now,” she said. "I’ve been doing this for 18 years and this model of coordinated care is something I believe in.”

PACE is a longstanding Medicare and Medicaid program that provides comprehensive medical and social services enabling older adults to live in the community instead of a nursing home or other care facility. PACE services are available at no cost to most participants as part of their Medicare and MediCal benefits.

“In our HomePACE model of remote care, we help seniors stay healthy and thriving while avoiding nursing facilities, which have tragically become hotbeds for the spread of coronavirus,” said Si France, MD, founder and CEO of WelbeHealth in a news release. “We’re excited to expand our all-inclusive model of care into greater Long Beach to serve more vulnerable seniors when they need it most.”

WelbeHealth's Long Beach location is accepting applications. Families can call 1-800-734-8041.

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