2018-04-06 / Front Page

Volunteers take care of their own

BY DARCIE MOORE
Times Record Staff


BOB BAUMAN, a volunteer with the Harpswell Aging at Home repair team, cuts a board for stair steps last week at the home of Janet and Dann Pulsifer. 
DARCIE MOORE / THE TIMES RECORD BOB BAUMAN, a volunteer with the Harpswell Aging at Home repair team, cuts a board for stair steps last week at the home of Janet and Dann Pulsifer. DARCIE MOORE / THE TIMES RECORD HARPSWELL

Janet Pulsifer’s husband, Dann, was an avid golfer who walked three miles a day. But late last summer, Janet noticed Dann was walking differently, and by October he was using a cane. The next month, Dann had grown weaker, falling three times in the house. He started using a walker.

Dann’s mobility continued to decline. In February, he suffered a heart attack. A commercial bus driver for many years, he left his most recent job training drivers at Harpswell Coastal Academy in December.

Two weeks ago, his neurologist diagnosed him with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.

Soon Dann, 73, will need to use a power wheelchair. And Janet, 67, is on indefinite leave in order to care for her husband of 49 years.


JANET AND DANN PULSIFER of Harpswell talk about the challenges of Dann’s recent diagnosis of ALS. 
DARCIE MOORE / THE TIMES RECORD JANET AND DANN PULSIFER of Harpswell talk about the challenges of Dann’s recent diagnosis of ALS. DARCIE MOORE / THE TIMES RECORD “It’s turned our lives upside down,” she said.

Dann now worries about his wife’s health and the stress caring for him puts on her.

They have lived in their home on Harpswell Neck Road since 1996, and had no desire to leave. It was a home that Dann had been raised in, one that he helped build with his father in the 1950s.

“It’s my home and I want to stay in it, and so does she,” Dann said.

Dann’s mobility issues made living there difficult, however. When their sons tried to build a ramp for Dann, they realized it was a bigger project than they could handle.

Then Janet remembered the Harpswell Aging at Home program.


MEMBERS OF HARPSWELL AGING AT HOME’S repair team stand in front of their construction trailer at a home on Harpswell Neck Road where they were doing work like building a wheelchair ramp and installing storm windows, gutters and replacing stairs. 
DARCIE MOORE / THE TIMES RECORD MEMBERS OF HARPSWELL AGING AT HOME’S repair team stand in front of their construction trailer at a home on Harpswell Neck Road where they were doing work like building a wheelchair ramp and installing storm windows, gutters and replacing stairs. DARCIE MOORE / THE TIMES RECORD As she and Dann sat in their living room last week sharing their story, a work crew intermittently passed through the room, and saws and screw guns whirred.

Harpswell Aging at Home’s repair team constructed a wheelchair ramp, installed new light fixtures, storm windows and replaced the narrow basement stairs. They also added side rails to the front porch and a gutter over the porch stairs.

The volunteer team of 23 Harpswell residents has made repairs at 33 homes since its creation.

“We do whatever home repairs are needed to keep the homeowner safe, warm and dry,” said Bob Bauman, one of the volunteers who helped organize the team.

The work — which can include window installation and plumbing repairs — is free for the homeowner, saving an average of $3,000.

The program benefits Harpswell residents aged 60 and over who make less than 80 percent of the Cumberland County area median income, which is $40,600 for a single person, Bauman said. Anyone interested can call the town office.

“This is not charity,” Bauman said. “This is a group of guys who are eager to give back to the community, to repay the community for what it has given us.”

Often, over time, Bauman said, people lose the support system they once had.

“All of a sudden they realize, ‘I’m by myself or my other friends are of my age and ability and none of us know how to do home repair and we need the help,’” he said.

Repair volunteer Dave Brown got started with the team because he knew there were many older people in Harpswell that could use a hand.

“We knew that some of them were short of resources and basically, we wanted to live in a town where neighbors took care of each other,” Brown said. “As you can tell, I’m not a spring chicken, so getting older is something that I’m familiar with.”

“It’s wonderful living in Harpswell because they take care of people,” Dann said. “I don’t know how to thank them.”

To help Janet and Dann Pulsifer with medical costs, such as the purchase of a handicap van, a GoFundMe campaign is underway — “Helping Dann Pulsifer LIVE with ALS” — at gf.me/u/htrh86.

For more information about Harpswell Aging at Home, visit www.hah.community, their Facebook page, or call the town office at (207) 833-5771.

dmoore@timesrecord.com

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