Sisters of Providence integrate housing, health care for frail seniors in Massachusetts

August 15, 2018

The Sisters of Providence broke ground earlier this month on a $9.25 million project to construct 36 affordable apartments for frail, low-income elderly in West Springfield, Mass. The housing will be integrated with health services already offered on the same campus through Mercy LIFE, a Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE).

The Sisters of Providence have begun construction on Hillside Residence, a complex of 36 apartments for frail elderly in West Springfield, Mass. The project is innovative in that it integrates housing with health services already offered on the same campus through Mercy LIFE, a Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly. In this rendering Hillside Residence is shown in the lower left foreground.

Sr. Kathleen Popko, president of the Sisters of Providence, said the project is "a conscious, deliberate effort to integrate housing with health care" to keep a vulnerable population living with maximum independence.

Mercy LIFE already provides comprehensive outpatient care and some support services for about 255 low-income and frail elderly. Most PACE participants receive services at home and may come to a day program on the campus one or more days each week. As a PACE program, Mercy LIFE provides wrap around medical and support services to keep in the community elderly individuals who might otherwise require nursing home placement. The new Hillside Residence apartments will build on that by addressing housing insecurity.

Sr. Popko

Mercy LIFE, part of Trinity Health PACE, offers primary care, urgent care, physical and occupational therapy, nursing, dental care, foot care, eye care, dietitian services, medication review, bathing and hairdressing and opportunities for socialization, 
Sr. Popko said.

The apartments are projected to open about a year from now, Sr. Popko said. Prospective tenants will be screened for PACE program eligibility and their capacity to live on their own, with support from the PACE program. A second assessment will determine if the elder meets financial criteria of having an income at or below 50 percent of the area's median. A state rental voucher program is providing subsidies that will limit residents' housing costs to 30 percent of their income.

A multidisciplinary care team will prepare — and monitor — an individualized care plan for each resident, drawing from PACE services. Hillside Residence will serve a communal lunch for residents not participating in PACE activities on a given day, where staff can take note of any change in a tenant's health status or dietary needs as the diners socialize.


Countering isolation, said Joseph Larkin, executive director of Mercy LIFE, "is an essential aspect of our integrated care model, as evidence continues to mount that loneliness is a significant health risk — some studies say a bigger risk that smoking or obesity."

In addition to seeing residents every day, Sr. Popko said the staffs of Mercy LIFE and Hillside Residence will hold weekly case conferences. Larkin said staff will be attentive to small changes that can signal the onset of more serious medical conditions. Early intervention, he said, is a hallmark of the PACE model of care.

Mercy LIFE keeps track of several measures related to its participants' health. To determine the effectiveness of the integration of housing and health care, the program will compare medical costs for those residing on campus with the costs for those who do not, and track the number of emergency room visits, hospitalizations and falls for both groups. It will compare resident and family or caregiver satisfaction for both groups.

The Hillside Residence will have two units set aside for respite care, so people in need of a short-term care placement can avoid an otherwise unnecessary stay at a rehabilitation facility or hospital, Larkin said.

Sr. Popko said the 27-acre campus where the Hillside Residence is being built is the former location of Brightside for Children and Families. The center provided residential treatment for emotionally disturbed children and included an on-site school, adoption services and off-site group homes. Sr. Popko said the center was no longer financially viable once the state stopped funding residential treatment for children in 2009. After an analysis of unmet needs in the area, the sisters decided to continue shifting their focus to elders, creating a campus called The Hillside at Providence to integrate affordable, independent elder housing with comprehensive health services.

In 1998, the sisters had converted their motherhouse on an adjacent property into 119 independent living apartments for seniors. They developed a contiguous property in 2009, an innovative small-house concept nursing home and rehabilitation program called Mary's Meadow.

Research and concept work on the Hillside at Providence campus began around 2010. It took several years to plan the development, and perseverance to gain state and local support for the innovative approach and to secure the layered funding needed for Hillside Residence.

Funding for that project comes from the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development, which is providing $2.5 million from the Housing Stabilization Fund, the National Housing Trust Fund and the Housing Innovations Fund Program. The city of West Springfield contributed $750,000 from its community preservation committee. The private Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation awarded Hillside Residence a $1.5 million grant. The Sisters of Providence matched the total funds raised from other sources.



Copyright © 2018 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3490.

Copyright © 2018 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States

For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3490.