PINELLAS PARK — Suncoast Hospice is embarking on a $2 million renovation designed to make it easier for frail and sick seniors to remain in their homes rather than moving into a nursing home.
The renovation will include the razing of an 18-bed residence on Suncoast Hospice's 9.1-acre campus at 6774 102nd Ave. N. Hospice will replace it with an adult day care center and medical clinic.
At first glance, building an adult day care center and medical clinic would seem a departure from hospice's traditional focus on the needs of terminally ill patients and their families. But Scott Kistler, vice president of organizational advancement, said it's a logical extension of services to senior Pinellas residents.
"We provide a whole host of services to keep them as independent as possible," Kistler said. "These are folks who want to remain independent in their own homes."
The center, which is expected to open in March, will replace a temporary day care that hospice has run in leased facilities for the past couple of years in the Feather Sound area. The new building will have room for 110 participants. It will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
To be eligible, one must be 55 or older, a Pinellas County resident and certified as eligible for nursing care. At the same time, the participant must be able to safely live in the community.
"We're serving folks in this program who have very advanced illness," Kistler said. "Those really are fragile seniors who we're serving."
Medicare and Medicaid will pay for most of the patients in the program, which is being run by Suncoast PACE, a hospice affiliate.
Sallie Parks, a former Pinellas County commissioner and former head of the Area Agency on Aging, said she had not heard of hospice's plans but liked the concept. It's a service that is needed in Pinellas, she said.
"Anything that's a nursing home diversion, in my book, has got to be a winner," Parks said. "I couldn't be more enthusiastic."
It's a plus, she said, that hospice is the organization that has chosen to provide the service. Hospice knows the needs of the aging and has the sensitivity to deal with them.
"It doesn't have to be an organization that just treats people who are dying," Parks said.
PACE, which stands for Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly, started in San Francisco in the mid 1970s, Kistler said.
The National PACE Association describes the program as being "centered around the belief that it is better for the well-being of seniors with chronic care needs and their families to be served in the community whenever possible."
PACE offers a full range of long-term services. A team of health professionals provides individuals with coordinated care. For most, the comprehensive service package enables them to receive care at home rather than a nursing home, according to the U.S. government's website medicaid.gov.
Among the services PACE offers are adult day care, in-home support and care, transportation, and primary and specialty care.
"Those are the services that wrap around that population," Kistler said. "It really is a wonderful service."
Once in the program, PACE becomes the sole source of services for Medicare- and Medicaid-eligible patients. Individuals can leave the program at any time.
Anne Lindberg can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8450.