Group Purchasing Grows as Home Care Financing Option

A nonprofit group is making access to private duty home care more affordable for Boston seniors via a new membership-based program that offers a variety of services to help older adults age in place, in the latest demonstration of a growing nationwide movement known as the Village model.

Earlier this month, Ethos formally launched JP@Home, a membership-based program that allows seniors living in Boston’s Jamaica Plains neighborhood the ability to group purchase a number of services to help them stay in their homes for as long as possible.

Through the program, Ethos, which specializes in case management, crisis intervention and nutrition services, will also connect senior members to home care, transportation and handyman services, among many other service offerings.

In essence, JP@Home creates a supportive network for older adults who are aging together in a given place and are interested in sharing social connections and activities such as book clubs, dining out and pursuing educational opportunities, says Raymond Santos, community relations director at Ethos.

JP@Home is fee-based membership. For $495 per year, members can receive access to Ethos’s coordinated services including case management as well as recommendations to other service providers.

Because Ethos is able to negotiate preferred rates with the providers it works with, JP@Home members are able to leverage buying power when they opt into the membership. The organization purchases millions of dollars worth of services for its clients, creating savings that are passed onto JP members, Santos says.

The JP@Home program essentially acts as a referral source for seniors who need some form of assistance to remain in their homes as they age. If a member needs something like home care, transportation, nutrition or handyman services, Ethos can coordinate such services for JP@Home members through their network of vendors who are contracted with the program.

“You have this powerful support network created by older adults and supported by an elder services agency. Elders want the safety net of having an elder care provider be there when they do need a little bit of extra help,” he says.

With a 40-year history of providing a range of advocacy and services to help seniors and disabled individuals stay out of institutionalized care settings, Ethos has been designated—and re-designated—as an Aging Services Access Point (ASAP) by the Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs.

The designation is typically for agencies that are contracted by the State to provide home care services, among other things, to primarily low-income elders. As such, Ethos is prohibited by law from providing direct services for home care; however, it can act as a neutral party where the organization is able to advocate for the elder and help coordinate services from providers.

JP@Home doesn’t specifically target low-income seniors. Rather, the program fills the demographic gap in providing its services to seniors who aren’t wealthy enough to afford monthly assisted living care, but aren’t poor enough to receive assistance from the state.

“There’s this whole population that is squeezed in the middle,” Santos says. “Their income isn’t high enough to go to a high-care or premium facility, but they don’t qualify for state subsidized services.”

Boston seniors age 65 and older represented approximately 10.3% of the city’s population as of 2013, according to five-year estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau from 2009-2013. The mean income of this population in the past 12 months was $68,769 in 2013.

There are few programs nationwide that offer a network of home- and community-based services (e.g. home care, transportation, home repair, meal deliver) that enable seniors to age in place and prolong the move into assisted living.

But Boston is the epicenter of one push to make aging in place easier, known as the Village model.

The first example of this was Beacon Hill Village, which was created in 1999 by a group of age 50-plus residents living in the Central Boston neighborhood of the same name (sans “Village”). Pioneering “The Village Movement,” the Beacon Hill group developed from a grassroots organization of aging residents that wanted to provide a network of services to help each other age in place.

The Village, which enrolled its first members in 2002, has grown to nearly 400 members, according to the organization’s website. To date, Beacon Hill Village offers its members a number of opportunities spanning the cultural arts, literature and learning, social and cooking classes as well as travel.

There now are more than 150 villages worldwide, with another 120 in development, according to a recent article in The Atlantic.

For JP@Home, the vision of providing a network that helps seniors maintain their standards of living without forcing them to relocate is similar to the model spearheaded by Beacon Hill Village.

“We’re creating a village in one of Boston’s most diverse neighborhoods in Jamaica Plain, where there’s a culture of community organizing and activism,” Santos tells SHN. “We’re taking that and marrying that with the expertise of home care and elder care of a 40-year ASAP in Ethos.”

Written by Jason Oliva