Island elder care homes: “You get a great feeling”



By Scott Fish

Southern Harbor House on North Haven is a new assisted living facility among a network of 11 Maine island communities. Elder care workers from these communities meet each year to discuss challenges, resources and to make action plans at an elder care conference hosted by the Maine Seacoast Mission’s island health director, Sharon Daley, RN.

Daley attended Southern Harbor House’s “opening event” on Saturday, July 7. In a later phone conversation, Daley said Southern Harbor House “makes four islands with these small, wonderful elder care homes.” Daley’s home island, Islesboro, has an elder care home. So do Vinalhaven and Chebeague.

“It’s really the way care should be given,” Daley said. She also credits The Genesis Community Loan Fund in Brunswick for its “huge help.”

Southern Harbor House Administrator Lindsey Beverage is a member of the Elder Care Conference Network. She was a community outreach worker “with a dream of building [an elder care facility] on North Haven,” Daley said.

At the opening event, “Lindsey recognized the Mission’s elder care conference and the connections she made there. The knowledge and support of other conference administrators was such a help in navigating Southern Harbor House through to completion,” Daley said.

“The North Haven community pulled together to make this home possible. Somebody donated the building and land; raised the money. Lindsey pointed out that some people gave $25; some gave $250,000. And all of it was important.”

“But really,” Daley added, “the islands pulled together and helped with all of this. That’s a story in itself.”

Daley said Islesboro’s elder care home, Boardman Cottage, developed much the same as Southern Harbor House, with “all the volunteerism. People landscaping, cleaning-up, painting — all of that.”

Daley remembers first reading about Vinalhaven’s Ivan Calderwood Homestead assisted living home around 2001.

“The Sunbeam was on Vinalhaven. I walked to the home, asked if I could look around. They said, ‘Somebody else from Islesboro just asked us for information about how we started, our policy books and all. We copied everything. Could you take it to them?’”

That “somebody else from Islesboro” and Daley got together and they “had our first meeting, got others involved, formed a board, and that’s how [Boardman Cottage] got started,” Daley said.

Today the network of elder care home administrators is quite effective. Daley said that between elder care conferences they “have monthly phone calls. Two or three times a year we meet in Augusta with state people involved in licensing and regulations. Island elder care homes got a 15 percent MaineCare increase when we proved it costs more to run an elder care home on an island,” she said.

“There’s just so much good about the island elder care homes,” Daley continued. “You get a great feeling when you walk into them. They are homes.”

“Staff are often taking care of their own grandmothers,” Daley said. “They’re trained and licensed to give medications, diabetic care, oxygen therapy — the training they need. It makes great year-round employment for staff, and it’s rewarding care.”

“Sometimes it’s really hard. We lost three residents in a short period of time. Staff and residents — they’re like family,” Daley said.

Our conversation ending, Sharon added, “It’s wonderful for people not to have to leave the islands. It’s not only good for them, but also their family members. One visitor comes to visit somebody, they end up visiting everybody — because they know everybody.”

“I think the islands are ahead of their time in providing this kind of care,” Daley finished.

Learn more about the Mission’s island health activities at
https://www.seacoastmission.org/what-we-do/island-services/.

Scott Fish handles communications and marketing for the Maine Seacoast Mission in Bar Harbor.