In the late 1960s, San Francisco’s Chinatown-North Beach community contained a large population of elderly people, primarily immigrants from China, Italy, and the Philippines, who were unable to get the healthcare they needed. Dr William Gee, a public health dentist, created a committee to research solutions. Marie-Louise Ansak, a social worker, was hired by the committee to look into creating a nursing home. Ms Ansak realized that not only was a nursing home not feasible financially, it was also culturally insensitive in a community that viewed such a facility as demonstrating a lack of respect for elders.
Instead, in 1973 the committee opened one of the nation’s first adult day care facilities, named On Lok, which is Cantonese for “peaceful, happy home.”
This novel idea was an immediate hit. Within a year, Medicaid began reimbursing On Lok for health services; within five years, On Lok added in-home care, meals, as well as comprehensive medical care and social support for elderly people who were ill enough to be eligible for nursing home care.
The success of the program in sensitively caring for the elderly became well known. In the mid-80s, efforts were begun to replicate the On Lok model of care, and by 1990 Medicare and Medicaid began to fund what were now called Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly, or PACE. By 2017, there were 122 PACE programs, in 31 states across the nation.
While the PACE model has spread across the country, it has stayed faithful to the spirit of the very first center opened in San Francisco: compassionately and sensitively helping the frail elderly with all aspects of care, while ensuring their dignity by allowing them to stay in their homes and their communities.
Beacon of LIFE, a government-approved PACE program in Oceanport, NJ, upholds the ideals of On Lok by maintaining an interdisciplinary team of professionals who give each client the coordinated care they need. The staff members specialize in caring for older people, and work with each client — and their family— to develop the most effective plan of care.
Beacon of LIFE provides a comprehensive array of services, including primary care, hospital care, medical specialty services, prescription drugs, nursing home care, emergency services, home care, physical therapy, occupational therapy, adult day care, recreational therapy, meals, dentistry, nutritional counseling, social services, laboratory / X-ray services, social work counseling, and transportation.