25 years on
The Pines Retirement Home celebrated its silver anniversary in February.
25 Years after Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II opened the home, and nearly four years after Hurricane Ivan inflicted huge damage on the facility, management and residents are looking to the future with optimism.
Part of the reason for that optimism lies in a $5 million expansion and restoration that is expected to bring huge benefits to residents and the community at large.
Expected to commence this summer, the three-phase project aims to take the facility beyond where it was when Ivan swept ashore in September 2004 and position the home to be able to respond to the swelling demands it expects to be faced with in the coming decades.
Since its opening in 1983, the home’s role has changed significantly, explains Manager, Sue Nicholson. Initially envisaged as a retirement home that would mostly cater to independent elderly citizens, it has evolved into a nursing home, with many residents requiring intense 24-hour care for chronic conditions such as dementia, diabetes, arthritis, depression and stroke, she says.
At present, the Pines has 31 residential care patients who receive around-the-clock medical, physical, emotional, cognitive and social care from a team of registered nurses, health care assistants and physicians assigned by the Health Services Authority.
Residents are kept engaged with excursions, games, exercises, arts and crafts activities, school visits and bible study. The spiritual needs of residents are catered for with regular services in the lounge and visits from ministers.
‘The nursing care and the personal care they receive is first class,’ says Ms Nicholson. ‘I think the elderly people have a lovely life here and they are well cared for; it’s a very happy environment.’
But the Pines’ orbit of care extends beyond those living at the facility. Just ask seniors in the home’s daycare programme, respite care programme or assisted living programme.
The day-care programme caters to seniors that live with their families or independently, but require daytime support. The respite care programme caters for families that need to place elderly family members in care for two weeks or less so they can travel off-island or take a break from the demands of care-giving.
Ms Nicholson expects the popularity of these programmes to increase as caregivers face busier and more demanding lives.
‘It means people that are not yet ready to make the big step of moving into a residential home can come in on a daily or short term basis,’ she explains. ‘It really gives the family a bit of relief. It also means the resident enjoys some stimulation; some camaraderie with people of their own age.
‘They do activities that are streamlined to their needs; they eat three good meals a day; doctors visit and there is peace of mind that they take their medications.’
Demographic predictions suggest that in Cayman – as in many other developed western countries – the demand placed on facilities such as the Pines will mushroom in the decades ahead.
In Cayman, the demand could be particularly acute. The Cayman Islands has the highest average life expectancy in the Caribbean, according to the Pan American Health Organisation, with males living to an average age of 77.3 years and female living to an average of 82.6 years.
According to the US Census Bureau, the number of people aged 65 and older living in the Cayman Islands will increase from 3616 in 2005 to 11,318 by the year 2025.
‘When you see the demographics, it’s quite phenomenal the number of people that will be in that age bracket in the future,’ says Ms Nicholson.
The new building, it is anticipated, will help cater to some of that increased demand but the decision to invest in a new facility was also hastened by Hurricane Ivan.
‘Even before Ivan, we knew this building was not really equipped to meet the needs of the residents going forward,’ Ms Nicholson explains. ‘It gave us an opportunity to say ‘should we put the insurance money towards repairing or should we invest it in a more propose built facility that would meet the resident’s needs?’
The new Pines
With construction expected to get under ay in mid 2008, lasting up to two years, the new two-storey, 15,000 square-foot building will straddle the eastern corner of the current George Town site.
To avoid any further flooding damage, the building will sit an extra three feet above the ground and will be equipped to survive hurricanes.
Presently the home can cater for a maximum of 35 residents. After the upgrade and restoration, the facility will have space for over 50 residents. Parts of the existing building will continue to be used after the project’s completion and will provide some overflow capacity if required.
Most importantly however, Ms Nicholson says the new building will deliver a huge boost to the quality and standard of life residents at the home enjoy.
‘It will be purpose built. [It will have] doorways that are wide enough for wheel-chair use; bathrooms that are designed to meet the specific needs of people with disabilities; rooms that are brighter and provide more privacy.
‘The building will serve as a hurricane shelter thereby erasing the need to put our residents through the ordeal of an evacuation to a shelter.
‘It will be more modern, more aesthetically pleasing. It will be a nicer environment for the residents and staff to live and work in.’
Public support vital
Of course, all of this costs money – something the Pines’ cannot claim to have on tap. As a non-governmental, not-for-profit organisation, the home relies heavily on public support, only receiving money from government in the form of payments for services the Pines provides to indigent clients referred by government.
Management of the Pines has now raised $2.3 million for the new upgrade and restoration. They are hopeful government will come to the table and defray some of the projects eventual $5 million cost, but community and corporate support remain a vital part of the Pines continued existence, Ms Nicholson points out.
‘Community donations are vital; if we didn’t have them we wouldn’t be where we are now. We wouldn’t even be able to consider this project without those donations.’
Among the most generous supporters is the Maples Foundation, which kick-started the project with a $1 million donation. ‘Without that we couldn’t have even considered it,’ she admits.
But its not just financial support the home looks to the community for; the Pines needs community members to visit residents to give them company and support.
‘They can come in and help at meal times; they can help with activities; they can be another pair of hands when they go on an outing … If they have an area of interest or a skill that they feel they can share, they can come in and share that with the residents.’
She also encourages expatriates in particular – many of whom don’t have extended families in Cayman – to come to the Pines to strike up friendships and form relationships with a resident.
At the end of the day, as one staff member points out, growing old is something no one can avoid.
It makes investing in the Pines a matter of shared interest for us all, Ms Nicholson emphasizes.
‘This is a crucially needed service in our society. We don’t just provide a service to the residents of the Pines; we are providing a service to all seniors in Grand Cayman.’
To learn more about the Pines call 949-5650
Donation can be made to the pines at the following accounts:
The Pines Building Account, Cayman National Bank:
CI $ Account# 011-11202
US$ Account# 021-06192