Logo of "the vicarage by the sea" celebrating its 25th anniversary, featuring an illustration of two people standing at an open door looking out to the sea, symbolizing support for individuals living with dementia.

Welcome to The Vicarage by the Sea Transcript Video

So the Vicarage was founded in 1998, we’re a small home-based model of care for folks living with various dementing illnesses. We’re unique in that as I mentioned, it’s a small home. It was originally a bed-and-breakfast. We care for up to eight residents and we have a staffing ratio of about one to four or better, so the care is really very personalized and specialized around their needs as they relate to their dementing illness.

There are many different aspects of the Vicarage model of care that make us quite different than other settings. Certainly one aspect is our small size, and we have a beautiful Freedom Trail, which is a handicap accessible trail right out our back door that winds down along the path leading to a beautiful sitting area down by the water.

 Another aspect of our model that is often very unique is that we’re a multi-generational setting. You’ll find folks who are living with us that may be very young, in their 50s or 60s, and folks that are certainly much older in their 80s and 90s. And then you’ll have folks caring for them that may be younger and folks that are semi-retired involved in our work staff as well, as well as very young folks like my daughter, Estella, who might be engaged in enjoying time with the residents or other grandchildren visiting. So the feel, again the culture of the Vicarage, is one of what one would expect in a normal family setting.

In that we’re working very hard to create a home-like environment, our residents are welcome to bring their own belongings and design their own bedroom. They’re also encouraged to bring their own pets if they have pets with them. We have dogs and cats that are in the residence and engaged with the residents regularly. You’ll find people engaged in any number of daily normalized activities such as doing dishes, certainly people help in the kitchen. There’s folks who enjoy taking time cooking or baking. We have folks that are gardeners that get outside and help in the gardens, encouraging folks to participate in daily activities in the home, that otherwise, in a larger institution, it might be more challenging. 

A common question that is posed when I meet with families is how can you possibly care for my loved one that wanders. And the Vicarage has a unique approach to dealing with wandering or you might frame it in dealing with folks who like to get out and walk. We allow it to happen and we walk with them. The facility is not locked. It is secure. There are motion detectors, and alarms that sound to notify staff of people’s movements and the walking itself acts as a therapy. Being able to get out and move when one is anxious or desiring the outdoors or sunshine or fresh air, is a means of addressing and soothing many of the issues that might create anxiety for their loved one.

Another area that families often ask me about is at what stage it’s appropriate to move somebody to the Vicarage and it’s a very unique, personal decision that’s made between families and their loved ones. Some people transition to the Vicarage quite early in their disease process. In fact, some of them are participating in making the decision to come to the Vicarage. It’s a setting they find very appealing and it makes sense to have them involved. And for other folks, they move at a later stage in their disease process when families are fatigued and need to have a transition made in order to support the complex care that that person is requiring. And so the Vicarage and its design is able to accommodate people along that spectrum at any point.

Another area that often I’m asked about when families visit is at what stage do we necessarily have to move our loved one again? Can they stay through the end of life? And the answer is they certainly can stay through the end of life. The Vicarage is small enough that our staff to resident ratio can support that kind of care and we assume the continuation of care when someone moves into the Vicarage. So, as the disease progresses, we’re filling in and assisting as needed. The end of life at the Vicarage is a Palliative Care model, keeping people comfortable, giving gentle care, nothing heroic, just a very comfortable setting with high quality care and familiar faces. It’s a beautiful gift to give to the resident as well as to their family.