It’s Thank you Thursday. Today’s shout out of Mission love goes to our Thinklab friends in Colorado.
Many people first learned of the power of telemedicine — the art of providing health services by internet — when outdated federal restrictions were lifted in the fight against Covid-19. Yet, telemedicine has been a part of Maine Seacoast Mission’s work among remote island communities for several decades.
Just within the last few years, advances in telemedicine equipment have enabled Island Health Services Director Sharon Daley, RN to carry across the islands 12-pounds of gear offering as many health options as Sharon’s equipment aboard the Mission’s 74-foot Sunbeam.
More recently, Thinklabs gifted four island elder care homes digital telemedicine stethoscopes. The Thinklabs One stethoscope is called “the smallest most powerful stethoscope in the world.” The stethoscope data is deliverable in real time to medical doctors or other health professionals on the mainland, which, in turn, saves elder patients time, travel, and expense.
State to State, this is what community looks like.
Island Health Services Director Sharon Daley, RN and Island Outreach Director & Chaplain Douglas Cornman enroute to an island from the Sunbeam.
NORTHEAST HARBOR, ME — With the Sunbeam reactivated, Director of Island Health Services Sharon Daley, RN is figuring out how best to do her work, providing medical services among island communities. Working under Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Covid-19 restrictions and guidelines means reinventing how Sharon performs her Sunbeam work.
“It feels great being back on the water,” Sharon says, “But it’s hard. We can’t let anybody on the boat and everybody wants to come see. People tell us it’s hopeful just seeing the boat there. And that feels good. Everybody wants it to be normal.” For now, normal includes a self-isolating Sunbeam crew always wearing masks, eating their meals at separate tables.
“If there is a medical problem and I need to use the Sunbeam‘s telemedicine equipment, then the person does come on the boat. There’s a whole protocol everybody has to follow. Everybody has to have masks. They walk onto the boat directly back to my telemedicine room. That’s where I see them. When they’re done they leave directly out the door,” Sharon explains.
Most of Sharon’s work is off the Sunbeam. Either home visits or by phone and videoconferencing. As much as possible, home visits happen outdoors. Indoor visits require masks, well-ventilated areas, and brevity.
“I do a lot by phone — checking in with people — and Zoom,” Sharon said. She initiates calls to people, or “people contact me if they have a problem.” One silver lining to Covid-19? Amended government regulations make it easier for more medical professionals to use telemedicine. “Pretty much everybody’s doing telemedicine now,” said Sharon. “If someone calls and needs help setting up a telemedicine visit, somebody who doesn’t really have a doctor — I try to find somebody who can see them.”
Since the early months of Covid-19, March and April, the existing weekly Zoom conference among island eldercare administrators took on new importance. The Zoom calls “are helpful for the administrators in figuring things out. They share ideas,” said Sharon. “It has been really, really important because the administrators are under a lot of stress and have a lot to deal with. So they’re able to support each other. They need the support because it’s a really hard time for them financially, with staffing issues, and supplies and regulations changing frequently,” Sharon explains.
“It’s very hard for the morale of the [island eldercare home] residents,” she continues. “They’re not getting to see people. They’re not getting to go out. It’s a really lonely time for everybody. We have residents that like to do things. They like to go to the mainland and they like to do things like that. They can’t.” An activity director took part in a recent island eldercare Zoom conference, offering activities the homes could use to engage and entertain residents,” she said.
News of the creation of new Covid vaccines brings hope. As of this writing Sharon doesn’t know when the vaccine(s) will be available to her. But, she said, if she can get it and transport it, she will administer the vaccine on the islands.
Screenshot of recent Zoom conference among Island Elder Care group. (Not part of original USDA press release).
Students and Healthcare Services on Maine’s Island Communities Stay Connected
Posted by Timothy P. Hobbs, USDA Rural Development State Director for Maine in Rural Technology
Jun 19, 2020
Maine’s island communities are scattered up and down the coastline, many of them miles out to sea – they’re rural communities carving out a life both in and on the Atlantic Ocean. Despite the distance from the mainland, the educators and healthcare workers in this remote area of the state are dedicated to providing the critical services our island residents depend on and have adapted to the necessary changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the elements of this adaptation has been through the use of telecommunications, and as State Director of USDA Rural Development in Maine, I’m happy our agency has been able to serve as a key partner in bringing this technology to our rural island communities.
Telemedicine…depends on quality broadband connections to provide support to our island communities. For example, Sharon Daley is the nurse for the Maine Seacoast Mission, a nonprofit dedicated to improving the quality of life and wellbeing for residents in Maine’s coastal and island communities. Sharon recently organized a videoconference for residents on the Cranberry Isles, hosting Barbara MacPike, an infectious disease specialist from Mount Desert Island Hospital in Bar Harbor. Barbara shared current information about COVID-19 and residents were able to ask questions about coronavirus, and get answers to their concerns.
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.
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.
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.”
“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.
“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.