PACE: Helping Participants like Joan ‘Soar Like an Eagle’


 September is National PACE Month, an opportunity to celebrate the innovation, joy, and care provided for older adults at Programs of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE®)!  Joan’s story illustrates this year’s theme – PACE: This is the Place for Me.

 Joan Gitchel has been blessed with a positive outlook, says her daughter, Hattie Austin.  “Nothing keeps her down.” 

 Following a five-way heart bypass surgery, Joan began talking about moving to a nursing home.  “She didn’t want to be a burden on her family,” says Hattie.

 Joan did live with her daughter in Howard City while her son finished a lower level apartment for their mom.  “At that time, I began navigating the elder care system, touring assisted living, nursing homes, and adult foster care,” says Hattie.  “It was rather overwhelming.  I honestly couldn’t envision Mom at any of the senior homes we visited.”

 After Joan received a pacemaker, Hattie remembers hearing about PACE.  “I heard of the possibility for better health outcomes when folks can stay socially active within their families and communities.” 

 At first, Hattie had misgivings and wasn’t sure how to qualify Joan for PACE.  But after one call, “the PACE enrollment team handled everything,” says Hattie. “We found the interdisciplinary team of healthcare providers to be very thorough, dedicated, and caring professionals.” 

 Joan now lives with Hattie in Allendale and participates in LifeCircles PACE in Holland.  “Mom gets her medications delivered to her door, physical therapy for her neuropathy, and meals and activities at the Day Center.  PACE also provided an emergency call device for her.”

One of Joan’s sons is physically disabled and he, too, receives care from Community PACE of Newaygo.

Hattie says, “It gives such peace of mind for all of our family, knowing Mom and my brother are both receiving excellent and compassionate PACE care and services.”

At 94, Joan enjoys joining her family, the Gitchel Gang, for rides on a three-wheel motorcycle.  “She accepted it as a dare initially,” Hattie says, “but she found she actually loved ‘soaring like an eagle!’”  Joan hopes to travel to Green Bay to ride motorcycles there, too. 

“Mom is more active and engaged with the support of PACE,” says Hattie who hopes that Joan’s story will inspire others.  “PACE has been a life saver.”

To learn more about Brio Living Services’ five PACE centers across Michigan, visit