The first “person” to greet you as you walk into Pine Harbour is Roxy, the community dog. She is every bit a part of this community as anyone else at the facility. A full-time resident as well as a full-time staff member, Roxy’s job is to officially greet everyone at the main entrance. As she does with all who enter Pine Harbour, she gently came over to me, stood quietly beside me for a moment, then immediately went back to her bed. It was her way of saying “Hi.”
Raeanne McLaughlin, the energetic and bubbly executive director of Pine Harbour, took time out of her busy schedule to meet with me and give me a brief introduction before our tour. McLaughlin told me that Pine Harbour started operations on November 6, 2006, after the Lake Forest Board of Directors and Community Partners, Inc. (CPI), came together with seed money to build Pine Harbour as a way to address a need for more assisted living in the area. A not-for-profit organization, Pine Harbour is dedicated to providing apartment-style specialized care for those needing assistance with daily living as well as providing a specialized Memory Care Unit for persons with memory-related disorders. All the money generated goes back into the care of the 66 residents. McLaughlin explained that Pine Harbour is governed by a board of eight directors who are led by president Patrick McGill and the facility is inspected annually by the New York State Department of Health.
As we began our tour we walked through the lounge, complete with fireplace, piano, beer taps, and cozy chairs. “Residents usually have happy hour here and then make their way into the dining room,” said McLaughlin. “We have two different beers on tap, wine, and what- ever else the residents request.” As we made our way into the dining room, I noted that the special of the day was steak with mushroom sauce, mashed potatoes, carrots, and ice cream. McLaughlin pointed out that residents are free to order anything off the menu—dining at Pine Harbour is restaurant style, with breakfast always cooked to order, lunch usually served as the big meal of the day, and lighter fare for dinner. Dining hours are flexible, and McLaughlin said that they accommodate all special dietary concerns and will even bring meals to the resident’s room if requested.
We made our way to the large movie theater that features eight plush reclining seats for residents who want to watch movies; they can also play a game of Wii bowling there. The library not only features a ton of books to borrow, but also a shuffle board requested specifically by residents. They can reserve the library or the conference room to host family parties, card parties, and just about anything else you can think of. Alongside the library we made our way past the mailbox kiosk, where each resident has their own locked mail- box. The next stop was the spacious salon where residents can have their hair done—either by the facility beautician, or by their own private hairstylist who they’ve invited to the salon. Pedicures and manicures are available as well.
An elevator ride down to the first floor brought our tour to the secure Memory Care Unit, which is the only facility in Clinton County dedicated to residents with progressed forms of memory loss. McLaughlin said Pine Harbour can accommodate 20 residents who have special needs related to dementia or other related illnesses including Alzheimer’s disease. She explained the atmosphere here is quieter than upstairs because some of the residents do not cope well with noise. The staff is consistent so that they can become familiar with each resident’s special circumstances, which makes them more at ease. Each resident may have a special way they prefer to dine, or have behavioral issues, so staff learn how to assist each resident with those special needs. The Memory Care unit has its own specialized activity calendar, but residents are free to attend any activity on either floor.
Amenities included are too numerous to list, but McLaughlin said, “We are like a stationary cruise ship. We have live entertainment, pro- vide cooking, cleaning, transportation, medication administration, help with personal care, and we can even match your lipstick color to your outfit for the day. It is all about what the residents want. We are big enough for the residents to be autonomous, but small enough to feel like family living.” McLaughlin also said residents can have pets here (small dogs or cats), there is plenty of space to park their cars, there are no restricted visiting hours and residents are able to keep their own primary care physician. Staffing for the facility is one staff member per five residents throughout the facility. There is staff on duty 24 hours a day every day; Pine Harbour also has an in-house life- line alert system available if residents choose to wear a pendant.
With two full-time activities directors, the activity calendar is overflowing with things to do such as trips to the casino, movies or shopping. The day I visited, communion, rosary prayers, exercise class, arts and crafts, bingo, and happy hour were on the schedule. McLaughlin also promotes weekly intergenerational programming that brings kids of all ages into the Pine Harbour Community for various activities with the residents. She said the residents love having kids around, and pointed out that her own daughter, who is now 10, has been coming to Pine Harbour since she was a baby. McLaughlin has even turned Pine Harbour into a polling place in order to provide another connection between the Plattsburgh community and Pine Harbour residents.
Pine Harbour has everything to offer in apartment living from studio apartments, deluxe studios, one- and two-bedroom suites to the one-bedroom suites in the Memory Care Unit. Information on all of Pine Harbour’s prices and amenities is avail- able on its website (www.pineharbour.org), but McLaughlin encourages people to come and take a tour, stay for lunch, and ask a lot of questions. One of McLaughlin’s primary goals is to educate the community about planning ahead for the future—not just living arrangements, but also for health care proxies, power of attorney, burial arrangements, estate planning, long-term care insurance, and living wills.
McLaughlin’s advice: Don’t wait until the last minute to look into assisted living. The current waiting list at Pine Harbour has approximately 30 names. Some people are on the waiting list for two weeks, others for two months or even up to two years. Prospective residents can pass up an offer for an apartment as many times as they want and still stay on the list.
McLaughlin added that people need to know that Medicare does not pay for any assisted living and Pine Harbour does not accept Medicaid as payment. She also recommended that people should investigate ahead of time if they are eligible for Veterans Benefits, which might assist with rent. Steve Bowman, director at Clinton County Veterans Service Agency at 137 Margaret Street in Plattsburgh is available to help anyone with the application process for those benefits.
McLaughlin has a Master’s degree in Counseling with an emphasis on older adults, but it’s her 25 years of experience in providing specialized care for persons with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia that make her an exceptional executive director. She has even participated in research on behavioral patterns and pharmaceutical treatment for Alzheimer’s. McLaughlin has been at Pine Harbour for the past 10 years and loves it. “You can have a beautiful place, but it’s the people here who make this place wonderful. The staff is wonderful, too, and have a special relationship with the residents.”
What’s in the future for Pine Harbour? McLaughlin’s project this winter is clearing out some of the trees and underbrush that have grown up in front of the dining room windows. The beautiful view of Lake Champlain and the mountains of Vermont have been blocked, but with the help of Kevin Defayette at Lake Forest, she will bring that beautiful scenery back to the dining room. That project is slated to begin February 2018. There are currently other exciting plans to expand services and programs to meet the needs of the community and although McLaughlin was not at liberty to elaborate, you could tell she’s got something really exciting in the works. Give McLaughlin a call, schedule a tour, stay for lunch, and see what she’s got up her sleeve. I guarantee you will be impressed.