By Meg Olson
Point Roberts is old and getting older, and some residents are trying to make it easy for older community members to stay in their Point Roberts homes.
“Point Roberts could very well be in for what I call a slow emergency,” said Annelle Norman, who is working with Chris Cameron and Dina Boykiw to start Circle of Life, a cooperative that would put together caregivers and those who need care.
Norman pointed out the 2010 national census found more than half of Point Roberts residents are over 55. The median age on the Point is 52.7 according to census results, more similar to Palm Springs, California (51.6) than to the rest of the state of Washington (37.3). Friday Harbor, which shares similarities with Point Roberts in terms of both its isolation and its appeal to retirees wanting to get away from it all, has a median age of 41.3. It also has hospice care and long-term care facilities, which Point Roberts does not.
Fire chief Christopher Carleton has been working for a year with the hospital district and organizations in the county to decrease the isolation of seniors in Point Roberts. “This is a huge issue for our seniors,” said Natalié Davidson with the Point Roberts Clinic, as they become less and less able to access services in the county.
“I’m trying to incorporate telemedicine into what we and the clinic can provide,” Carleton said. He is currently in discussion with a cardiology group in Bellingham that serves 20 patients in Point Roberts about the possibility of online video chat appointments, using telemedicine to “give them that face-to-face with their physician.” He is also investigating the possibility of some specialists making regular visits to the Point. “Our demographics are definitely older. My end goal is to open up more avenues of specialty providers to the community,” Carleton said.
Carleton also said he was looking at ways medically trained department members could help. “We want to get our medical providers out in the community meeting medical necessities outside of 911,” he said. He is working with Whatcom Hospice to help them have more consistent contact with their patient in Point Roberts. “We could make sure they are OK and meet any acute needs,” he said. “We’ve been working to establish cooperative ties between the hospital district, the fire district and these outside providers.”
While response to a Circle of Life survey has been small, Norman said respondents overwhelmingly would like to stay in their homes as they age. “Many of them are here without family close by and concerned about their need for in home care and their ability to pay for it,” she said. In addition to transportation, key concerns from survey respondents were help with housekeeping, yard work, lifting and grocery shopping.
With more survey participation Norman hopes they can develop a clear picture of needs and work on how to meet them. “If we don’t tackle this issue as a community we could soon have a huge challenge on our hands,” she said.