Jane Eidler used to be known as the “Blatchley Pool Lady.”
For 38 years, she taught swimming and managed the pool at Sitka’s Blatchley Middle School. She led walking tours of the town where she married and raised three children.
Then came Alzheimer’s, and the woman who had guided others across Sitka’s trails and waters suddenly needed guidance herself.
Sitka, a town of 8,600 people on Baranof Island, doesn’t have many private options for that guidance. There are only two private assisted-living facilities in the city, with three beds between them. Most Sitka seniors use the state-owned Pioneer Home, the oldest of six Alaska facilities built and operated by the state to care for its elderly residents.
In October, Eidler entered the Pioneer Home, and her family began paying $6,800 per month for care. Eidler had bought long-term care insurance long ago, and that took care of about $4,000 per month. The remaining balance, while steep, was manageable for a middle-class couple that had saved for retirement.
On Sept. 1, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services sharply raised the cost to stay at one of the state-owned Pioneer Homes.
“Her monthly bill went from $6,800 to $13,300,” said Lauren Wild, Eidler’s daughter.
For months, the state has said it will extend an existing payment assistance plan and that no current resident will be evicted for lack of ability to pay.