LIFE St. Mary Member Turns 100 Years Old
Bristol woman will celebrate milestone birthday with Mummers appearance and party
TREVOSE, Pa., July 17, 2013 – Ask Dorothy LaFaw her secret to reaching 100 years of age, and she will credit good genes and longevity among other family members. “I never smoked and never drank, either,” she’ll add.
Yet ask her the secret to remaining independent at age 100, and LaFaw, who is known as “Dot,” will credit an innovative program affiliated with St. Mary Medical Center, in Langhorne. Born in Philadelphia and raised in Levittown, LaFaw is able to continue living independently in her Bristol home thanks to the support she receives from LIFE St. Mary.
LIFE, which stands for Living Independently For Elders, is a comprehensive, long-term care program designed to help keep adults age 55 and older out of nursing homes. It is a Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE), a national care model established in 1997 as part of the Medicare and Medicaid programs.
PACE programs help frail and disabled older adults who otherwise would need nursing home care live safely at home with help from a team of healthcare experts specializing in geriatric care. Only about 88 PACE programs operate nationwide; LIFE St. Mary is the only such program in Bucks County.
“They take such good care of me here [at LIFE]. Every day there’s something new to do,” LaFaw said recently. “For someone like me who likes to think and keep my brain going, that’s a very good thing.”
LaFaw officially will become a centenarian on July 26. To celebrate, she will be the guest of honor at a party at the LIFE St. Mary Center in Trevose. Festivities will include an appearance by the world-famous Mummers and visits from Bucks County legislators, as well as a special lunch and cake.
A crucial part of the program is a day center where seniors can receive the services they need, including social work, nursing care, and primary and specialized healthcare.
LaFaw, who has been part of the program for one year, comes to the LIFE Center on Northgate Drive each week to participate in social activities, eat meals, and receive routine medical care. Additionally, two LIFE colleagues visit her at home in the evenings to address any needs she may have.
LaFaw says the time she spends at the LIFE center, which opened in 2010, helps keep her going.
“Everybody is so kind and nice to me. I love all of the people here,” she said. “I have also met some friends during lunch. I very much enjoy the time I spend at LIFE.”
PACE programs are funded through payments from Medicare and Medicaid, so patients who qualify for those programs typically have no out-of-pocket costs. At LIFE St. Mary, even transportation to and from the center is provided as part of the program’s service plan.
Kim Brown, the van driver who picks up LaFaw and takes her to the center, is an important part of the team that enables LaFaw to live independently. “It's always a joy to see Ms. Dot,” said Brown. “At age 99, she's still energetic and cheerful and always tells me to behave myself and be good. She's my Agent 99.”
LaFaw’s favorite activities at the LIFE Center include trivia and musical performances. “I also like to play basketball, because they don’t make us stand up,” she says.
At home, she enjoys reading and watching the television program “Jeopardy.” When she was younger, she worked in the banking and life insurance industries. She also loved to play the piano, but says she doesn’t play much anymore.
Her family is important to her too, she said, adding that she has a daughter who lives in Washington, D.C., and a stepson who lives in Bloomsburg, Pa. Monthly visits and daily phone calls keep the family close, she said.
In addition to her birthday celebration at the LIFE Center, LaFaw also will be treated to a second party thrown by her family and friends the next day. “Two parties in two days! That’s a lot for someone my age,” LaFaw said, “but I like to have fun, so it’s good.”