NEWARK — For senior citizens who crave independence, a nursing home or hospital is the last place they want to spend their final days, weeks, months or years.

A new facility at the Silver Hill campus in this Wayne County community is giving seniors a better chance of avoiding that scenario.

In a ceremony held Wednesday morning, Rochester Regional Health representatives joined local officials in celebrating the opening of the ElderONE facility on Technology Parkway. The building was once home to the local Sarah Coventry plant.

“This is a beautiful environment,” stated Dr. Eric Bieber, president and CEO of Rochester Regional Health. “As we age and watch our parents age ... this is really the kind of facility we want for ourselves and them. We want to make aging really wonderful because this is an incredible, important group of our society that deserve to have the very best.”

Rochester Regional Health includes Newark-Wayne Community Hospital and Clifton Springs Hospital & Clinic. The ElderONE site will serve older residents in Wayne and Ontario counties.

Officials said the health system also has innovative services for seniors, including the Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly, which is more commonly known as PACE.

Silver Hill is the first PACE center to open in Wayne County. Rochester Regional operates the only centers in the greater Rochester area, including three in the city.

“This program, for 27 years, has been keeping people in their communities, in the house or apartment they love, close to their families, around their friends and helping them to stay out of hospitals and nursing homes,” said Kathy McGuire, senior vice president of behavioral health, home care and managed long-term care for Rochester Regional Health. “The goal of the program is to keep people as independent as possible.”

McGuire said ElderONE and PACE are designed to take care of seniors who are frail enough to need a nursing home but want to stay in their community. She said there are only nine other ElderONE programs in the country, and Rochester Regional has one of the largest.

Dr. Steve Ryan, ElderONE medical director, said what was once a small demonstration program has grown into one that serves thousands of senior citizens in the greater Rochester area — and now, Wayne County and the Finger Lakes area.

“As a geriatrician, I understand the complexities of aging and the difficulty of keeping patients as functional as possible,” Ryan said. “Over the course of my career in geriatrics, I have seen PACE grow from an uncertain dream to a very robust reality. In fact, PACE is now the fastest-growing option for dually eligible seniors who choose to live in their communities. PACE is now recognized as the gold standard for community care of frail, older adults.”

Ryan said what makes PACE different is the coordination of medical care and services on a regular basis, instead of when the senior needs care. Those services can include physical therapy, social work, nursing care and nutrition.

“When our family members become frail, they often begin to see multiple specialists for multiple conditions,” he said. “Each visit is scheduled independently, has a separate medical record, provides separate prescriptions and send separate reports to their primary care physician.

“PACE responds to make sure all this information is coordinated and it all fits. Prescriptions get filled, each physician is working off the same up-to-date list. Transportation is scheduled. PACE does all that, and does it every day.”

More than 100 people, including ElderONE employees, attended the event that included tours of the facility.

Ryan said the ElderONE site, which accepts both Medicare and Medicaid, is designed to be a frequent resource for seniors.

“Instead of coming in every few months or when they are ill, PACE patients come to the center every week. At PACE, our team is here every day,” Ryan added. “The PACE team knows their patients. They know their strengths, the know their weaknesses and the know their limitations. They don’t stop coming in after a limited number of weeks. They continue coming in as long as they need help.

“As we continue to expand in the coming years, and we will, I know more of our neighbors will be given a choice to remain in their homes, to live on their terms and many times spend their last days in their homes with respect and dignity. With PACE available, they will have a working team to ensure their wishes are honored and their journey is an independent and as safe as possible.”

Dr. Dustin Riccio, Rochester Regional’s eastern region president of operations and president of the Newark-Wayne and Clifton Springs hospitals, said Rochester Regional continues its investment in those hospitals, including a renovation to Newark-Wayne’s entrance and patient access center that will be unveiled later this month. Also in the works is a $32 million renovation project at Clifton Springs.

Riccio said planning for ElderONE Silver Hill began more than two years ago, when Newark-Wayne became part of Rochester Regional Health.

“It was just a shell of a building then,” Riccio said. “To walk in today and see it is truly incredible. This will be keeping seniors in Wayne and Ontario counties out of hospitals and where they want to be.”

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