It is called the HELP Adult Respite Care (or HARC for short).  Its very informative brochure states that the program

 “….provides a fun and engaging social day program designed for home bound seniors with functional limitations and/or early memory loss. Our respite care program enables caregivers to have a day of rest knowing their loved ones are well cared for.  

I will explain further what this wonderful program really is all about after my firsthand visit with the service providers in action, but first a bit of backgroundand a couple more acronyms to hopefully help it all make sense, and easier to remember:

Helping Elders Live in Place (HELP) began about 5 years ago when a dozen or so very civic-minded local folks, (most of whom are of at least retirement age themselves), identified that there was a real need in the Rangeley community for services to help aging residents continue to live and thrive in their own homes (where we all want to be, if truth be told) rather than (all too often, and sometimes prematurely) in a care facility that is always miles from their beloved home and Rangeley community.  All that many of these individuals need is a bit of help to make it possible.  

It all started with obtaining a small funding grant to get things going.and get things going they did!  When the grant money ran out, the local non-profit, (and very impactful), organization for all things related to physical and mental health and well-being, Rangeley Health and Wellness (RHW)stepped in to keep the very worthy and health-related HELP programs and its energetic volunteer spirit going.  

You may not be aware of all the services that HELP provides for seniors in our area.  There is the popular Senior Socials on Thursdays during the winter months, Neighbors Calling Neighbors daily phone calls to touch base with those elders who are living alone, Functional Fitness senior exercise sessions three times a week, and an annual Senior Expo that presents educational sessions on topics of most need and interest to those getting on in years,

.AND there is, last but certainly far from the least, the HELP Adult Respite Care (HARC) program offered every Tuesday in the lower level of the Rangeley Family Medicine building and found easily by driving around back to the buildings lower level.  The well-marked entrance door does not require a single step to access the programs very comfortable and inviting facilities..

A service dog visits HARC to the delight of staff and client alike…as well as the invited children from the nearby pre-school!

HARC could not have gotten off the ground without the interest, expertise, and boundless energy of HELP member, Marsha Baker.  She is a very accomplished wildlife painter, and most importantly (for this discussion at least) a very experienced, albeit retired, licensed clinical social worker (LCSW).  Marsha knew about similar successful programs in other parts of Maine and New England, and set about convincing the rest of the HELP members (energetic volunteers all) that there was a definite need here among these lakes and mountains as well.

Marsha and others set about to review the state of Maine requirements to become a licensed Adult Day Services Program, then met or exceeded all the requisites regarding staffing, facilities, client programming, safety and so forth.  HARC has been functioning as a licensed program now for three years and counting!

As a retired physical therapist and being very interested in home accessibility and physical safety for elders among many other specialty areas as a licensed PT, I was an early member of HELP and continue to be.  I knew that HARC had become a quality program from the starthowever, I have to admit that I had yet to see the services in actionuntil last week.

So, I arranged for a visit last Tuesday morning starting an hour or so before the first client was set to be dropped off by his caregiver at 10 a.m.   He was to be there until 3 p.m. when the exceedingly grateful family member/caregiver was to return for him up after a few precious hours to meet her own needs, whatever they may be, and on her own schedule.  

I began by talking with the very pleasant Program Provider, Pat Langille, PSS.  This very organized, gracious, and only paid employee at HARC, filled me in on many of the details and answered my every question in full.  It was clear that she was very proud to be a part of this much needed service, and very proud of the environment and activities that she and the volunteers have created for the family members five hour stay at HARC.

Then the days volunteers arrived.  This day it was to be Diane White (also a retired physical therapist) and Susan Gray (a retired registered nurse).  They are among 25 current volunteers (who have 6 hours/year of training specific to their role with these very special elders who quite often have progressive memory loss issues).  They all rotate covering each Tuesday to help Pat attend to the clients. I was impressed by their immediate enthusiasm for the day at hand, and setting up some cognitive stimulationmaterials for the soon-to-arrive client.  Pat noted that It has been great getting to know all of these wonderful volunteers.   As I talked with them, it was clear that they enjoyed what they have been doing to help make the program a real success story.

HARC Program Provider, Pat Langille, interacts with a client while volunteers Susan Hart (L) and Diane White (R) look on

The program has a stated fee for the day of $45, though it is on a sliding scale, (available upon request) that is adjusted to the caregivers ability to pay.  My impression, after meeting the arriving caregiver and her relative with advancing memory loss (Alzheimers) who would be at HARC for next few hours, was that the service was priceless in terms of what those few hours meant for both.

During my lengthy healthcare career dating back to 1974 (that included 17 years as the PT service director at Maine Medical Center in Portland), I certainly learned to recognize quality human services when I see it.  The interactions I witnessed that morning at HARC were of the highest quality, and delivered empathically with the best of human interactions, I assure you. I could go on and on, but I think I will conclude with the very sincere and meaningful words of a clearly grateful family caregiver penned in a letter to the provider and volunteers at Rangeleys HARC program,well after her loved one became too ill and in need of much more specialized medical care than this respite program was designed to render.  Her letter, in large part, is as follows:

My husband, (……), has been involved in the HARC program since November, 2016.  This program has been a lifesaver for me. Prior to enrolling (…….) in the HARC program, I thought I can do it all.  That was far from a realistic view of my life as a spouse and caregiver.

The HARC program has allowed me the needed time and space to breath and relax.  Additionally for (…….), he spent with others where he felt safe and secure.  The HARC program allow(ed) both (…….) and I to step back from each other.  He has lunch with the ladiesand I have my time.  A win-win for us both.

The staff is wonderful and knowledgeable.  They all care for (……) and treat him with respect.  I have no reservations leaving (……) for the day, knowing he will be engaged and entertained.

My one request is that the program be extended to additional days during the week.

Sincerely,

There,Im sure you will agree that I couldnt have said it better myself !

NOTE:  If you are interested in more information about HARC and its admission criteria, ongoing client assessments, or your specific questions not answered in this column (or know someone who might find these services valuable but may be reluctant to take the first step and ask), I suggest you contact the administrator at Rangeley Health and Wellness, Jeanne Thorvaldsen at 864-4397 x 4.   

We need to write, otherwise nobody will know who we are.

                                                                 Garrison Keillor

Per usual, your thoughts and comments are welcome.  Jot them down on a 3x5card and slip it inside the log door of our mudroom on the rockbound west shore of Gull Pond.or simply send an email to [email protected].