ROCKLAND, Maine — Nancy Rackliff said the Talbot Home, a stately Victorian house that has served as a home for elderly residents for more than 50 years, is a hidden gem in the city.
But the Talbot Home sits empty as its board considers ways to fill the home that is located near the downtown.
The Talbot Home is an assisted living facility run by the nonprofit organization Talbot Home. The home has the capacity to have six residents at a time but for the past month, there have been no residents.
Members of the Talbot Home board of directors said they were at a loss to pinpoint why they have been unable to attract residents.
“That’s the million dollar question,” said board member Mary Catherine Ingraham.
Rackliff’s mother Jeannette Orff was a resident of the Talbot Home for six years until she was injured in a fall earlier this year and had to spend time in a hospital and then a rehabilitation center.
Rackliff said her mother, who had been living in Cushing, moved to the Talbot Home at the age of 84. Since her father was in a rehab center, Rackliff did not want her mother spending a winter in Cushing on her own. They decided to visit assisted living facilities and the first one they went to look at was The Talbot Home because of a suggestion from a friend of her mother.
“She loved it. It was the closest thing to home,” Rackliff said.
The Talbot Home was decorated with two Christmas trees during the holidays and spacious rooms were available for families to come over and celebrate.
Rackliff said she had not been aware of the home before her mother moved there and said most people don’t realize what the house has been.
“It’s a hidden gem,” she said.
Board Vice President Charles Heald said the Talbot Home may have outgrown its niche. He said more people are going directly from living at home to more skilled nursing care facilities and skipping the assisted living-type home.
The Talbot Home does not accept MaineCare or other insurances, but instead residents or families pay the $3,599 per month. That payment includes three meals a day that are cooked in a kitchen at the home on Talbot Avenue. Staff are on hand around the clock to provide assistance to residents such as giving them their medications if needed.
The three-story Victorian is equipped with an elevator. There are 20 rooms in the 1856-built, 6,600-square-foot house with nine bedrooms and six bathrooms. A large enclosed porch is awash in sun even during the winter months.
Each resident has a private bedroom and bathroom.
Assistance with bathing and dressing is provided although most of the residents have been able to perform those functions.
Administrator Nancy Graham, who was hired last June, said that the home has not been filled to capacity for more than a year. The final two residents left within a few weeks of each other about a month ago, moving to nursing facilities that provided more skilled care.
She now remains the final paid employee of the home. The others were let go when the residents moved.
The Talbot Home has put out the word to doctors and done advertising but has yet to get new residents. The Pen Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce held its “Business after Hours” gathering at the Talbot Home on Wednesday afternoon.
The organization that runs the Talbot Home has roots that run back more than 100 years in Rockland. The original name, the Home for Aged Women, first opened at 148 North Main at the intersection of Broadway.
In 1963, two women — Marion Talbot Lilley and Jean Talbot Foote — whose family had been the benefactors for the organization donated the Victorian on Talbot Avenue for the Home for Aged Women, according to the Shore Village Story. The name has since been changed to the Talbot Home.
The board is looking at ways to keep the home operating and considering other sources of income.
One option being explored by the volunteer board is to open the home for adult day care services. That would be in addition to renting to residents.
One obstacle to that change is the city’s zoning ordinance. The Talbot Home is in a residential A zone which allows the home to provide services to residents but not to nonresidents of that home.
The board has sent a letter to the city asking for the change.
The board of trustees, in its outreach to the community, believes there is a need for an adult day care program in the area, Heald said in a letter to the council.
The program would accommodate people ages 65 and older who cannot live alone, and who would enjoy socializing with other people. The service would be available from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday. A hot noon meal would be served and snacks provided during the day. Activities would be scheduled to meet the interests of the people using the adult day care.
The Talbot Home wants to have its license changed so that it can have up to 20 people in adult day care during the day.