(Previously submitted to Lincoln County News)
Oftentimes Inn Along the Way is described as a collaborative community supporting caregivers and older adults. In its simplest form, caregiving obviously means giving care. How does it actually work in the reality that is our society?
I've seen caregiving in the school system, when the young mother brings her young son, born with cerebral palsy to watch his classmates as they run across the hardwood floors of the basketball court. Even knowing he'll never be able to play the game, his smile shows how happy he is to be there.
There's the mother who sits beside her paralyzed son, not the young man she he imagined he would grow into, but a young man suffering from results of an overdose from which he lived but from which he'll never truly recover. She's there to help with the very basic needs of an infant that she thought they had long ago outgrown.
There's the father who needs help to understand and continue on as he deals with life after the suicide of his child.
I know of caregiving in the home. There's the elderly couple who hold each other up in their aging years the same way they supported each other through their 6 decades plus of marriage. When he falls, she tries in vain to lift him, finally calling 911 to have help in getting him back to bed. It wears on her, but she loves him so she does all she can. It's her responsibility, tiring as it is.
While visiting a nursing home the other day I watched caregivers in action. First there were those who served the lunches, those who wheeled the residents to the table, and those who fed the ones who couldn't feed themselves. Beyond the paid staff, there were family members.
There was the sister who sat beside her brother as he ate. Not only did she keep a watchful eye to be sure he was nourished but she responded to his somewhat rambling conversation in kind and understandable ways. There was also the son, who sat and just held his mother's hand, quietly waiting while she decided whether or not she wanted to eat. The caregivers were out in force.
What will caregiving mean at Inn Along the Way? How will this idea of caregiving manifest itself? After completion of the 10 million dollar building project, the complex will be populated by people living in community with each other. This means that when someone needs someone to walk beside, someone to eat with, someone to listen, or someone to sit in silence with, a neighbor or a volunteer will be there. Our community will be the support for our community.
What about those who don't live here? There will be respite cottages available for those who need a break. They can find rest, relaxation, and quiet time in the cottages on the tranquil farm property. They can bring the person to whom they give care with them.
That's where the volunteers at Inn Along the Way step in. The caregiver can bring them and volunteers will help. They can visit, walk, sit, they can just be. There will be respite and memory making along the way.
There are other ways in which Inn Along the Way will be caregivers. The Inn will be open for family members who come from afar to visit with a loved one due to illness, accident, or other needs. We are located about three miles from Miles Memorial Hospital in Damariscotta, 25 miles from Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick, 26 miles from Pen Bay Medical Center in Rockland, and about 47 miles from Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston. During the winter months, Inn Along the Way will be one of the few Inns open.
Inn Along the Way is all about being interconnected with the community, caring for others and building relationships of support. One of the requirements for being a resident is to be willing to provide support to others as well as being willing to accept support from others. This interconnectedness, this living in community model is designed in order to help caregiving become a way of life.
We already provide support for the community. We often have caregivers stop by looking for resources or emotional support. Even those to whom care is being given stop by. Hospitable companionship is always at the ready here at Inn Along the Way. We hold soup lunches on Thursdays. All are welcome for shared soup and bread in community with others.
A few weeks ago we had an example of caregiving that went a little beyond the norm. An orphaned fawn was found on the property. It was determined that the mother was deceased. A rehab facility in Boothbay was contacted and they came. The fawn is now in the care of a rehab facility in Wiscasset.
From the tiniest creature to the older adults and all in between who need support, Inn Along the Way will be there.
The next articles will be part of a series written by a volunteer that clearly describes the trials of a caregiver. These articles are an eye-opening chronicle of the life they lead.
(Inn Along the Way, innalongtheway.org, is a unique and innovative community design in which older adults will live interdependently in a neighborhood-style setting of small, environmentally friendly homes The community is under construction at the 31-acre Chapman Farm in Damariscotta.)