SOLVING AN AGE-OLD PROBLEM

Written By: Rebecca Nimerfroh | Photography By: Brian Sager

How Erin Kopecki is changing the lives of many elderly islanders.

Last spring, Erin Kopecki launched TUCKed In Eldercare, a concierge service of sorts designed specifically for elderly retirees on the island. “It’s important for families to have someone that they can trust who is checking in on their mom and dad, making sure they’re OK and having a good life,” Kopecki says. She explains that many elderly want to “age in place” in their homes on Nantucket, while their adult children have made lives in other cities and states that can be fairly far away. “I become a surrogate family member,” she says. “Part of my job is to make sure both the client and their children can maintain that child-parent relationship by taking that stress away from the family so they can enjoy the last years with their loved ones.”

When Kopecki was twelve years old, her grandmother passed away. The loss inspired her to begin volunteering in nursing homes where she helped manage social calendars and activities while cherishing her time with the patients there. “I kind of felt like they were my grandparents,” she says, “and I held on to these relationships I made.” With her natural affinity for and understanding of the elder population, Kopecki went on to major in gerontology and then received a master’s degree in gerontology at the University of Massachusetts. Today she is a gerontologist, certified Care Manager, licensed Nursing Home Administrator, and Alzheimer’s Association Family Support Volunteer.

Shortly after receiving her master’s degree, Kopecki took a job at Our Island Home. During her two and a half years serving as an assistant administrator, she recognized that there was a dire need for a “middle person” to help transition patients into their elderly life. “When someone is discharged home from the nursing home or the hospital, there needs to be that middle person to set up the services they need, make sure there’s a smooth transition and ensure that they will be successful in their home,” she explains. “That’s when I decided to start this care management business.”

And it’s not just year-round residents that she helps; those vacationing on Nantucket also benefit from her services. “I think for the people who see Nantucket as their home in any sense, whether they live here full-time or have had memories and experiences here, it’s important to give our elders the experience of remaining in a place they love and call home.” In this way, Kopecki can serve as a summer caregiver for elderly visitors to the island. “I wake up every day excited to spend time with clients and their families, with the goal of putting a smile on their face by bringing encouragement, passion and meaning. I feel so fortunate to have a career that doesn’t feel like work, on an island that means so much to me.”

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