elder care

In 1976, the organization that would become Rocky Mountain Health Care Services set up shop in a small downtown Colorado Springs office it shared with Grace Episcopal Services. The nonprofit’s employees had one goal in mind: helping frail, elderly and disabled residents meet their basic needs while remaining independent in their own homes.

While RMHCS has since outgrown that small office, it has never wavered from that original mission, said Summer Galceran, director of marketing and community engagement.

“[RMHCS] has been around forever serving that same type of population,” she said.

The nonprofit, then called Home Maker Services, rebranded in 1987 as Home and Health Care before officially becoming RMHCS in 1998. The next year, RMHCS opened BrainCare, the first community health clinic aimed at meeting the needs of people with acquired brain injury, including traumatic brain injury, Galceran said.

BrainCare helps clients relearn lost skills and move toward independence and self-sufficiency through specialized living communities, coordinated care and cognitive rehabilitation with skills training.

Through Give!, RMHCS hopes to grow its Rocky Mountain PACE program, which opened in 2008 as El Paso County’s first program to use the PACE model of care — Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly.

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The goal is to provide medical and support services that help adults 55 and older maintain the highest possible level of independence, Galceran said.

“We provide a primary care doctor, transportation to any medical appointments, in-home health care services and skilled [registered nurses] who come into people’s homes and assist them with any dressing changes,” she said.

The PACE program covers all of a patient’s medical bills and will also repair durable medical equipment such as wheelchairs, Galceran said.

“With the PACE program, we find that people live longer — but they also have a lower hospitalization rate the longer they’re in it, because of preventive care,” she said. “The things that typically happen with seniors is, they’re on a fixed income, so if a wheelchair or walker breaks, they have to pay for that cost of getting it fixed. A lot of times they can’t afford that … and they will skip their medications because they need to be able to afford to fix their wheelchair.

“Because we cover all those costs, they are able to pay rent, buy food and still get their medication — and we fix their durable medical equipment.”

The PACE program’s services often go beyond simply addressing medical issues, Galceran said.

“Maybe we have to renovate a bathroom, or we can put in lamps and retrofit their home to make sure they can safely live independently,” Galceran said. “For example, Sally Smith is enrolled in the program and she wants to live independently at home. Maybe she has a pet who has fleas [that] are biting her and it’s becoming a medical problem for her. We will of course treat the medical problem, but it doesn’t eliminate the problem, so we’ll flea dip the dog. It’s going back to the source of the issue.”

Give! 2019Seniors also can attend the program’s adult day center, which keeps them active and engaged in their community, Galceran said.

“As seniors, they are sometimes very isolated, so getting out and about is a little more difficult,” she said. “We pick them up at their home, assist them in getting dressed, take their dog for a walk.”

For seniors without a close network of family and friends living nearby, the PACE program can often provide that family connection, Galceran said.

“It’s really important that our parents and grandparents are not forgotten,” she said. “We really think they deserve the utmost dignity and respect, regardless of their situation.”

Participation in the PACE program has grown more than 20 percent over the past several years, Galceran said. In 2018 alone, RMHCS spent $5.7 million on hospitalizations for its clients.

“There’s a high demand and need in this community,” Galceran said. “People are aging longer — and then the cost of aging longer, of course, goes up. So while it’s a good thing that they’re living longer, the actual direct costs required to keep them going has continued to climb.

“The cost of health care continues to go up, so all the support that anybody in the community can provide is extremely helpful.”