It seems everyone expects healthcare to be complex, disconnected, convoluted, and difficult, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Catholic Health’s LIFE – Living Independently For Elders is a new long term care program that coordinates all the healthcare services seniors need to remain independent in their own homes.

Sound too good to be true? Quite simply, LIFE is a new and better way to provide care and the standard of what Erie County residents deserve.

Imagine elderly friends or relatives who might be challenged by Alzheimer’s or other debilitating diseases. They and their caregivers struggle with a variety of decisions:

• How can they continue to live at home and remain independent?

• How can they coordinate all the medical services they need including transportation?

• Do they need nursing home care and how do find the right one?

• How can adult children balance work obligations, family commitments and caring for their aging parents?

As we age and our healthcare needs increase, it seems we have fewer and fewer options as the healthcare system becomes more and more complex. Catholic Health LIFE is changing that by offering a long term care option for elder care that removes the complexity. LIFE is a Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE), which has existed for over twenty years in other parts of the United States. This long term care program for older adults has effectively provided comprehensive and coordinated services, while allowing our elders to live at home, with assistance as needed.

In addition to the comprehensive medical care, LIFE also provides an outlet for social interaction for participants, while providing a respite for family members and caregivers. “This program will give my Mom her life back,” said Debbie McGowan, whose mother will join Catholic Health LIFE in January. “She is looking forward to having a life of her own outside of our home."

Through Catholic Health LIFE, each participant’s healthcare needs are coordinated by the LIFE Care Team. “The team-based care management provided by our primary care physician; nurses; physical, occupational and speech therapists; social workers; nutritional staff; spiritual care chaplains; personal care aides; transportation staff; and many others, provide a centralized network of experts to streamline and coordinate the healthcare needs of the elderly,” stated Kathleen Donaldson, Center Manager. “If we see fluctuations in their health or behavior, we are able to implement changes in care immediately. If specialists are not on our staff, we schedule appointments as needed and also provide transportation.”

Time spent at the LIFE Day Center is based on medical necessity and each individual’s special needs. “In a brief period of time, families of participants have reported the positive impact they are witnessing at home,” Donaldson continued. “Personally, I have experienced a great sense of accomplishment and pride in the positive changes we are making in people’s lives in such a short period of time.”

Remaining independent is important to area seniors and their families. Catholic Health is striving be part of our community’s healthcare solutions. Changing the culture of long-term care is not an easy task, but as advocates for elders, we believe that aging should be a continued stage of growth and development, not a period of decline.

“To see an elderly person who has only been with our program for two weeks improve their cognitive ability, gain weight, and improve their mobility has been one of the most satisfying experiences in the twenty-four years of my healthcare career,” said Thomas Schifferli, Executive Director of Catholic Health LIFE. “Our program is growing and our participants are thriving!”

For more information on LIFE – Living Independently For Elders, please contact Karen Shalke at (716) 519-5433 or visit our website at