2018-08-09 / News

Garden would benefit Alzheimer’s, dementia patients

By Abigail Worthing
Staff Writer


Sister Pat Sullivan, head of Mission Integration and Spiritual Care for St. Andre Health Care, and CEO of St. Andre Health Care Stephen Alaimo prepare to open the door to a new 6,000-square-foot memory care garden, to be built where they stand, upon reaching their fundraising goal. (Abigail Worthing photo) Sister Pat Sullivan, head of Mission Integration and Spiritual Care for St. Andre Health Care, and CEO of St. Andre Health Care Stephen Alaimo prepare to open the door to a new 6,000-square-foot memory care garden, to be built where they stand, upon reaching their fundraising goal. (Abigail Worthing photo) BIDDEFORD – St. Andre Health Care is undergoing a fundraising campaign to improve the quality of life for its patients.

The nursing home is appealing to the community to help them build a memory care garden, an outdoor space where those with dementia can wander and partake in outdoor activities in a safe, controlled environment.

St. Andre Health Care has been on Pool Street since 1940, serving as a home for unwed mothers until 1976. The facility now serves as a 96-room nursing home, providing rehabilitation, hospice, memory care, as well as respite, short term and long term care. The not-for-profit center was run exclusively by Good Shepherd Sisters until 2001, with a sister heading every department, until a decline in new nuns lead them to pursue other options. The facility partnered with Covenant Health out of Tewksbury, Massachusetts, joining its network of 17 longterm care facilities and three hospitals. The sisters still have a presence at St. Andre, which neighbors St. Joseph Convent. Of these remaining nuns is Sister Pat Sullivan, head of mission integration and spiritual care, who is one of the driving forces behind the memory care garden project.


St. Andre Health is fundraising to turn this 2,000-square-foot patio outside its facility into a 6,000-square-foot memory care garden. The garden, when completed, will feature wide paths for wheelchairs, raised garden beds and a gazebo to be used by residents. (Abigail Worthing photo) St. Andre Health is fundraising to turn this 2,000-square-foot patio outside its facility into a 6,000-square-foot memory care garden. The garden, when completed, will feature wide paths for wheelchairs, raised garden beds and a gazebo to be used by residents. (Abigail Worthing photo) Sullivan is originally from New Hampshire, and has been with St. Andre for three years. As she walks through the halls of the facility, she knows the residents by name, stopping to say hello as she passes, complimenting their hair or asking about lunch. She speaks passionately about the project, for which she has done ample research.

“This memory care garden would be a great addition to our facility. We’re a small home, and we work hard to break even,” Sullivan said. “These gardens are so good for memory care patients.”

Memory care refers to the division of health care that handles those with memory loss, specifically dementia and Alzheimer’s. Many nursing homes and memory care facilities implement these outdoor havens to try and stimulate the mind instead of residents walking the same hallways every day. Those with memory loss can be prone to wandering and getting lost so most memory care gardens contain a circuit path with only one entrance and exit so as to not confuse residents.

It’s proposed for the St. Andre garden to have raised garden beds for residents to tend, a level ground with paths wide enough for wheelchairs and a gazebo. Nic Stankevitz, owner of Amron Landscaping LLC in Biddeford, will serve as the hard and soft landscape architect when the project reaches full funding, and has already designed the 6,000-square-foot garden.

“We’re keeping our options reasonable because we’re waiting to see what the funding looks like, but we’re wishing for the best,” said Stephen Alaimo, CEO and administrator of St. Andre Health Care.

As Alaimo and Sullivan walk through the patio area off the center’s community worship space, where the proposed garden will be placed, they speak with passion about what a garden like this could mean to their community, but especially the memory care division of St. Andre.

“We’ve read so many studies about the effects nature has on patients with dementia. It improves their quality of life and provides them an opportunity to walk without the risk of getting lost,” Sullivan said.

“Walking is so good for the patients, and right now they can only walk up and down the hallways. This would give them the chance to be able to get fresh air, see the flowers and walk with their loved ones when they visit,” Alaimo said.

Should fundraising efforts exceed the goal, the facility would ideally like to explore the possibility of covering and screening in the garden to allow for use throughout the year.

The fundraising goal is $75,000, of which $22,000 has been raised, primarily through an initial appeal to corporate donors and families of past and present residents. In fundraising material, donors are given the option to make their donations either in honor of or in memory of the person of their choice, and for $200 can have their loved one’s name engraved on either a paver or a bench, or for $20,000 their name can be inscribed on the gazebo. Donations can be made through the center’s website, where a drop down box will allow donors to specify that the funds are to be used for the memory care garden. The facility also auctioned off a handmade quilt recently, raising $568.

“It’s a common misconception that because we are a Catholic facility that we are affiliated or funded by the diocese,” Sullivan said.

“We’re completely independent from the church, which means that we rarely turn a profit. All our funding comes from residents, so we don’t have the spare savings to pay for a large scale renovation like this,” Alaimo said.

Along with appealing to donors, Sullivan will apply for grants.

“We’re making great progress,” Sullivan said. “We’re so grateful to all who have partnered with us thus far. We’re going to keep going until we reach our goal, because we believe this is an important mission.”

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