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'Adult daycare on steroids': The Oaks PACE program marks special month
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'Adult daycare on steroids': The Oaks PACE program marks special month

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The Oaks PACE, Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly, is a special entity that for more than a decade has been delivering health-related care and providing a multitude of supportive services to older individuals with chronic-care needs in The T&D Region of Orangeburg, Bamberg and Calhoun counties.

“This program means the world to me. I have been here about a year and I get one-on-one attention,” said Joe Carn, who credits the rehab center with helping him to get back on his feet, to walk on his own with the aid of a cane.

“We are like an adult daycare on steroids. We do a little bit of everything for our participants. We provide for their medical needs and their transportation,” said Diane Johnson, PACE Center director, who pointed out the fact that the center located on Founder’s Court in Orangeburg is one of three such facilities in South Carolina. The others are a part of Prisma Health in Greenville and Columbia.

Participants at the site are actively engaged in a variety of stimulating activities, such as arts and crafts and bingo, and they have access to a team of social workers, nurses, therapists and a full-time doctor.

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“They have their needs met here and they can go to their own homes at night, which is what the purpose of the PACE program is, to keep our adults healthy and in the community, and they like it that way. Once you become a participant, we take care of your medical bills, provide your meds and other supplies as you need them, and take you to your doctor’s appointments,” Johnson said.

“What makes this program so great is that it is all-inclusive from physical therapy to social work case workers to transportation. I have worked in private practice and in community health centers, and there are often restrictions where we can’t deal with the social problems or dietary issues,” said Dr. Robert Johnson, who has been treating patients at this location for the past eight years.

“I have the support to make sure that the patient gets not only a prescription or a recommended treatment plan, but here we make sure they get those medications and the services that they need all in one site,” said Johnson, who boasted that with their 24-hour medical call line for participants, there’s a call-back time of minutes instead of hours or days.

September was National PACE Month and on Thursday, Sept. 24, Orangeburg Mayor Michael C. Butler proclaimed September 2020 as Orangeburg County PACE Month. The staff at the Oaks PACE Center were very active in making this a special occasion for their participants as they began re-entering the facility in phases.

During “spirit” week, Sept. 21-25, there were themes such as hat day, pajama day and favorite team day to enliven the facility during Phase 1. The month-long celebration culminated in a balloon release memorial held on Wednesday, Sept. 30, to remember their former chaplain, the Rev. Nathaniel McMillan, and 14 PACE participants who passed away during the year.

At the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in March, the PACE program went from having 50-60 daily participants in the Oaks Center to only seeing those who needed medical attention. However, according to Johnson, over the last couple of weeks they have started phasing in participants on an as-needed basis. Currently, there are around 15-20 participants taking advantage of services at the facility each day.

“We are following social-distancing guidelines and we are planning to look at alternate sites so that we can have up to 30 participants in each location,” said Johnson, who knows that PACE participants are missing out on being able to socialize with their peers and are ready to return.

“Properly caring for our participants who are not coming into the center is a major concern. We want to continue to have a positive effect on their physical and mental well-being,” said Tracy Stroman, PACE Marketing and Enrollment Director.

Stroman said they have maintained the census of patients during this critical time and educated their caregivers on CDC and DHEC-recommended precautions to protect everyone from exposure to the virus as their staff was engaged in more home visits.

“We call all participants and caregivers weekly or as needed to make sure that they have what they need and utilize social media apps on smart phones to maintain greater communication with them. This gives us the ability to see and speak to participants as needed,” she said.

“We use our Facebook page to keep everyone informed of updates on COVID-19 by Dr. Jones, our primary-care physician, as well as different events for the participants with Ty’lonna Gillium and Byron Larrymore in our activities department,” Stroman said.

“The staff at PACE know that this has been a huge adjustment for everyone, especially those who are in need of extra assistance for their loved one while being cared for at home,” said Stroman, who explained their employees have been “taking extra precautions and are extremely happy to report that during this pandemic we have had no COVID-19-related incidents at the PACE Center or among our staff.”

In addition to residing in Orangeburg, Bamberg or Calhoun counties, to be eligible to take part in the Oaks PACE program, an individual must be at least 55 years of age, must have been certified as having met South Carolina nursing home criteria and must meet the Department of Health and Human Services stipulation of being able to live in the community without jeopardizing his or her own health or safety.

For more information about Oaks PACE, contact Tracy Stroman, marketing and enrollment director at 803-268-5301 or tracy.stroman@theoakssc.com.

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