Element Care – The Sandwich Generation

Element Care’s PACE Program Brings Much-Needed Relief to Busy “Sandwich Generation” Caregivers

Afew years ago, Lowell resident Sara Khun Leng, 32, who is the mother of two active boys now age 9 and 11, found herself in a difficult situation. In addition to her demanding full-time job as director of community relations at the Lowell Police Department, Khun Leng was frequently shuttling her sons to sports games and other activities. The health of her parents, who are now in their 70s and live with Khun Leng and her husband, had also begun to fail. 

Increasingly, Khun Leng was having to take time off from work to take her mother, who had suffered a serious fall and has type II diabetes, to medical appointments. Then, Khun Leng’s grandfather suddenly died. Her grandmother, who is now in her late 80s and suffers from a number of health issues, moved in with them.

“I had a meltdown,” Khun Leng says. “I was resentful, angry and depressed. Eventually, I had to seek medical attention for myself. I went to see a therapist.”

While she was at work one day in 2016, Khun Leng received an invitation to attend an open house at Element Care’s then-new downtown Lowell facility. “It’s not something I would normally do, but I decided to go,” she says.

Element Care, which has other locations in Massachusetts including one in Methuen, is a nonprofit health care organization dedicated to helping older adults with health issues remain at home, and minimizing hospital and nursing home stays. 

While she was at the open house, Khun Leng learned about Element Care’s PACE program (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly). “It was a sign,” Khun Leng says. “I thought, ‘This is it. This is my savior.’” 

Sara Khun Leng’s grandmother enjoying painting at Element Care’s Lowell PACE Center. Photo by Adrien Bisson.

In addition to a day program that offers activities, meals and opportunities for socializing, PACE participants receive transportation to and from medical appointments and help managing their medications. Element Care also has doctors, nurse practitioners and behavioral health therapists on staff, among other clinicians.

Today, both of Khun Leng’s parents and her grandmother are enrolled in PACE at Element Care.

“They get picked up at the house in the morning. I don’t have to worry about taking time off to take them to appointments,” Khun Leng says. “My dad, who never liked going to the doctor, now has his blood pressure under control. PACE took him to the dentist and helped him get dentures. He’s much more self-confident.” 

Through PACE, Khun Leng’s mother has been able to get her diabetes under control. Her grandmother, who had trouble getting around, has received physical therapy and now has an easier time walking on her own.

Today, Khun Leng is much happier and is able to enjoy her time off with her family. “I get frequent updates from the doctors. The staff at PACE is so responsive and professional,” she says.

Adults age 55 and older that want to live in their homes and community but need enough assistance to qualify for nursing home care are eligible for PACE. Patients who are on Medicare and are eligible for MassHealth pay nothing for the program. Options are also available for Medicare-only and private pay patients. 

All medically necessary services are covered by PACE, including hearing aides, dental care, transportation, the adult day health center, activities and meals, medical equipment and medications.

Dr. Jennifer Russo, physician at Element Care’s Lowell PACE center, says, “We see more caregivers struggling to care for their own children and manage careers, as well as care for their aging parents. The PACE program can significantly benefit families in these situations by providing much needed support.”                                

For more information about Element Care and the PACE program, visit Elementcare.org or call (877) 803-5564.

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