Maine Island Elder Care Homes: Ahead of Their Time

Southern Harbor House, Elder Care home, North Haven, ME

BAR HARBOR, ME — Southern Harbor House on North Haven is a new assisted living facility among a network of eleven 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 Mission’s Island Health Director Sharon Daley, RN.

Director Sharon Daley attended Southern Harbor House’s “Opening Event,” 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, who also credits The Genesis Community Loan Fund, Brunswick, ME 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,” said Daley.

L-R: Sharon Daley, Lindsey Beverage, Mary K. Terry (Program Consultant, The Genesis Community Loan Fund)

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 $25.00; some gave $250,000 — and all of it was important,” said Daley.

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

Sharon 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.”

Sharon 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 Sharon “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. Sharon said, 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.

Southern Harbor House interior view.

“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,” said Daley. “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,” said Sharon.

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,” Sharon finished.

Learn more about the Mission’s Island Health activities.