FeaturesFemale doctor consoling senior woman wearing face mask during home visit

COVID-19 has shone a spotlight on many aspects of American life, but none more so than the living situations of older adults. Congregate living communities like nursing homes and assisted living facilities struggled to contain COVID at the outset of the pandemic. Still, these facilities exist for a good reason: to care for older adults who need comprehensive medical care 24 hours per day. But many older adults don’t need round the clock care and can still live safely at home. So, in Rhode Island and across the country, home and community-based care is getting a closer look.

Rhode Island residents are getting older, and their needs are changing. As the 2020s roll on, more Rhode Islanders will need services that cater to older adults, such as homecare, prescription deliveries, and access to transportation. Making these services available and affordable will be critical to keeping families and communities together.

So, how do we get these services to Rhode Islanders who need them? It begins with increasing incentives and awareness of community-based care services. Community organizations like PACE Organization of Rhode Island are a lifeline for older adults, particularly those with low income. These programs help keep the community vibrant and strong by supporting inter-generational families and ensuring local engagement. They bring expertise and knowledge into communities and include wrap-around services like day center activities and social work.

People eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid services are a diverse group, and Rhode Island has a moral and economic obligation to help keep them well. At PACE-RI, we work with this population every day, addressing the impact of years of health system inequities. Our staff see firsthand the difference that tailored preventive care plans can make.

Now, as we move on from COVID-19 and funding from the American Rescue Act is on its way, Rhode Island is at a crossroads. The state has a once-in-a-generation chance to reimagine how we care for our older population. We need to seize that opportunity by expanding home and community-based care throughout the state. It’s time to start building tomorrow’s systems of care.