Concerns about transportation, housing and staffing were discussed at a meeting of the Boothbay area Elder Forum held at the Rotary Clubhouse June 11.
Chaired by attorney Chip Griffin and with representatives from service providers including Boothbay Region Health Center, Catholic Charities, the Community Navigator, YMCA Senior Walkers Group, Comfort Keepers, Lincoln Health, Hospice and New Hope for Women, the forum meets four times a year to share information concerning seniors in the region. The Rotary Club of Boothbay Harbor sponsors it.
Each representative provided updates from their organization. Patty Seybold of Boothbay Region Health Center told the forum, pricing for the People Helping People services increased from $10 for three services a week to $15. She also recommended the book, “The End of Alzheimer's: The First Program to Prevent and Reverse Cognitive Decline,” by Dale Bredesen. Discussion followed on care and housing for dementia patients.
Many attendees agreed with Paula Goode of Comfort Keepers who said her organization is feeling the shortage of caregivers and is not able to serve all those who are seeking help. Griffin added, the area is reaching a crisis for people in the trades because older workers are retiring and there is a need for younger workers.
Boothbay Harbor Police Chief Robert Hasch updated forum members from his perspective, saying how significantly things have changed over the years since he became chief. Griffin agreed, saying the median age in Boothbay Harbor in 1990 was 38 and in 2010 it was 56. Griffin expects the 2020 numbers to show an even older community.
According to Hasch, his office is now dealing with a dichotomy of issues daily: either someone who is aged and has been scammed or someone who is young and addicted. The police department also receives calls each day for well checks and an elderly person might ask the police to call them back to make sure they haven’t fallen while showering.
According to Hasch, this is another example of the shortage of caregivers in the area. “Someone may be able to afford help, but can’t find someone to help them.”
Kathy Bean, clinical director for Maine Health Care at Home’s MidCoast region, informed the group about the Resources for Enhancing Alzheimer’s Caregiver Health (REACH) program. According to its website, the program is free of charge.
As Bean explained, the programs offer help to caregivers and those suffering from dementia and can include evaluation and access to more resources. Those interested can call Spectrum Generations at 563-1363.
Bean also reminded attendees about the area’s district nurse, saying the region is one of only three in the state with a district nurse. Through home visits, the nursing care can allow people to remain in their homes rather than having to enter supervised care.
Discussion also concerned respite opportunities for those who care for dementia patients. Bean suggested the Safe Havens adult daycare program.
Kathleen Arabasz, Community Navigator, expressed concern about the degree of isolation experienced by those who have dementia. Griffin pointed out that more than half of those suffering with dementia haven’t been diagnosed.
The group discussed a report entitled “Creating a Dementia Friendly Lincoln County” by Steve Raymond, Admissions and Communications Director of The Lincoln Home. The report concerned communications skills for businesses that serve people suffering from dementia.
Forum members were enthusiastic about the possibility of the local Chamber of Commerce presenting the information to businesses to create awareness about how to interact with customers who have dementia.
Keeping seniors at home was another topic tackled at the meeting and high praise was given to Bath Housing’s “Comfortably Home” program. Under the program, a professional maintenance team performs one-time, minimally disruptive but high-impact minor home improvements. These can include safety checks, accessibility enhancements and minor repairs.
Those receiving help from Comfortably Home must be at least 55 years old or have a disability, live in a home owned by the applicant or a family member that is within a 15-mile radius of Bath and meet income guidelines. More information is available at 295-3091.
Arabasz reminded forum members the Boothbay Region Community Resources Council now operates the FISH program which provides transportation for those who cannot drive. The program is now called “Boothbay Community Rides” and has the same phone number as the FISH program: 633-4357.
Attendees canceled the Nov. 12 meeting. The next meeting is Sept. 10 at the Boothbay Harbor Rotary Clubhouse.