October is National Physical Therapy Month and what better way to celebrate the vital role of physical therapists than to share the success story of Thome PACE participant-turned-graduate, Caroline D. Parker.
To know Caroline is to appreciate the profound impact of PACE, or Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly. PACE serves low-income older adults, ages 55 and over, who are eligible for nursing home care, but are able to live safely and independently in their homes and communities with the help of PACE services. At the Thome PACE Day Health Center in Jackson, an interdisciplinary team of professionals provides participants with a “one stop” shop model for all their healthcare needs – including physical therapy. Thome PACE opened in 2016 and currently serves over 50 area older adults living in Jackson, Hillsdale and Lenawee counties.
In 2009, Caroline had just moved to Jackson after completing her Master’s degree with high hopes of landing a job. Instead, she began having health problems, including trouble walking that affected her ability to live successfully. She had three blood transfusions before she was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, an incurable form of bone marrow cancer with a short life expectancy. A woman of faith, Caroline thought, “I’ll show you! I am not accepting that!” and began chemotherapy treatments. Caroline’s disease is now in remission, or, as she calls it, “redemption.” Caroline says, “You either have faith or you don’t. I chose to believe.”
The chemo, however, caused its own health issues for Caroline. A knee injury also made it increasingly difficult to manage her everyday activities. She struggled for two years until February 2016 when she learned about Thome PACE. Caroline was interested and became a participant that March.
Since then, thanks to physical therapy three days a week at Thome PACE with physical therapist Cindy Mercier, Caroline lost 100 pounds and is walking on her own. Caroline calls Cindy her “shero” and says, “Cindy’s voice of encouragement is always in my head.”
In addition to PT, occupational therapy, regular doctor visits to monitor her medications, and the attentive CNAs at PACE have given Caroline a new lease on life. So much so that she recently “graduated” from the PACE program.
Today, Caroline leads cardio drumming at the senior community where she lives and is spearheading its first annual Renaissance Arts and Crafts Festival in December. She is also an eloquent and powerful spokesperson for Thome PACE and what it has meant in her life. On October 12, Caroline shared her story with a gathering of nearly 100 at UMRC’s Emeritus Board dinner event in Chelsea. Caroline says she tells everyone about PACE. “It’s a program that, on the surface, sounds too good to be true – but it’s true! It’s amazing what God has done in my life.”