Introducing "The Vicarage"

June 12, 2005

By Laurie Doran
Originally published by The Coastal Journal Sunday, June 12, 2005

HARPSWELL – The Vicarage, formerly a bed and breakfast located on Curits Cove, now specializes in carrying for the elderly with dementia.

“The Vicarage was founded on the beliefs that every human being deserves the opportunity to grow, regardless of age, or ailments,” said Johanna Wigg, one of the founders of the long-term health care home.  “We founded it according to the State of Maine Adult Family Care model.”

The staff at the Vicarage follows the philosophy explained in Tom Kitwood’s book, “Dementia Reconsidered.”

The approach is to put the person first. 

Basic needs of good food, good company and pleasing surroundings are important to a person’s wellness.

“The Eden Alternative,” written by William Thomas MD, explains how all across the country nursing home were attempting to deinstitutionalize the facilities by painting walls and including gardens on the premises.

It was noted that medicaitons were reduced and people tended to live longer in an “Eden” like environment. 

“People who are living with a progressive neurological impairment need to feel safe,” said Wigg.

“A home like setting provides people with a sense of security and safety.”

Until seven years ago, the Vicarage was known as a bed and breakfast destination, managed by Wigg’s mother.

When Wigg’s mother died suddenly, Wigg decided to purchase the property and opened an eight bed facility to care for the elderly with dementia.

Wigg is well versed in the needs of the elderly.  She is a sociologist with a specialty in social gerontology. 

She also cared for her grandmother who had dementia.

Wigg’s co founder, Cheryl Golek, is a licensed dietitian and highly trained in caring for the elderly with dementia.

“We work on psychosocial model of care as opposed to medical model of care, where the focus is on the body,” said Wigg.

“The primary focus is the emotional and psychological well-being of the person.  There is a lot of personalized attention and we get to know the person’s history, their likes and dislikes.”

Wigg and Golek along with their qualified staff, offer long-term health care in an ocean side home situated in a wooded lot with flower gardens.

The family atmosphere makes this elderly care facility unique.  Home cooked meals are served at the dining room table, morning, noon and evening. 

Residents are encouraged to decorate and furnish their rooms with their belongings.  And their pets are welcome too, as long as there is space.

The residents at this home have the opportunity to participate in summer outings, barbecues, walks to the ocean or simply enjoy a sunny day out on the porch.

The staff a The Vicarage works closely with physicians, nurses and other health-care professionals to meet the needs of the residents.

According to Wigg, in this society, the elderly that are cognitively impaired are stigmatized and in many ways viewed as the unwanted.

“The work is so challenging to deal with the constant changes of effects of the person’s illness, but the sense of accomplishment is enormous,” said Wigg.

“It is knowing that you’ve given the best quality of life before death.”

BDN: How this home in Maine is giving normalcy to people living with dementia

Advocating for the whole person living with dementia

Person Centered Approach to Dementia Care

Person Centered Care for those living with Dementia

Understanding Dementia: Q&A with Dr. Wigg

Dementia Doesn't Define a Person