News Feature

Originally published in Castine Patriot, January 26, 2017
Closure of Northern Bay Living Center ‘hard on everyone’

Click here to see the full Penobscot Nursing Home Archive.

by Anne Berleant

Northern Bay Residential Living Center will close in several weeks, but not until all residents have found another home, administrator Marjorie Love said.

“It’s the lemonade we can make out of these lemons, that they have the option to move to the right home.”

Ordered closed after more than eight years in the financial receivership of the Department of Health and Human Services, the result will be employees losing their jobs, families of residents traveling further for visits, volunteers staying home, and a community losing one of its linchpins.

Like the elementary school and Northern Bay Market, the nursing home at Penobscot’s main intersection has been part of the town’s fabric for decades.

“I think it’s hard on everyone,” Love said.

While Penobscot students, who spend time with residents weekly, know that the center will close this spring, “when it’s really going to hit the kids is next Halloween,” Penobscot Community School Principal Allen Cole said.

The Halloween practice of grade school students, and some parents, parading to the center in full costume to meet with residents is a decades-long tradition.

In recent years, residents came and shared a Thanksgiving meal with students at the school.

The interaction between students and residents is good for everyone, Cole said.

“It turns out no matter what the kids do, the residents love having them,” he said. “And it’s the one thing where our kids, some of them, get to interact with elderly people….They are forced to get out of their own comfort zone. We have no one-to-one parallel thing to replace that.

“There’s nothing that will or can take that spot,” he said.

A January 15 deadline to find a purchaser set by Judge Michaela Murphy in Maine Business and Consumer Court early in December was not met, and therefore DHHS was granted legal rights to sell the nursing home and assisted-living bed rights to other elder-care companies.

The nursing home section was closed in 2014, upon a legal petition to the court by DHHS, based on alleged violations.

However, the assisted living center “is being closed as not financially viable,” Love said. “It’s not a quality issue, it’s an expense [issue].”