Karen Novak, Director of Health Services, Smith Care Center

Preventing the spread of infection has been a key component of healthcare since the work of Semmelweis in the 1840s.  Currently, the problem of drug-resistant microbes—“superbugs” such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)—is the subject of attention as transmission becomes a wider problem both inside the healthcare system and in the community.  Preventing antimicrobial resistance requires special strategies that go beyond traditional infection control, such as implementing policies for the judicious use of antimicrobial medications.

The spread of infection is best described as a chain with six links:

The chain of infection is the foundation of infection prevention.  If you can break any link in the chain, you can prevent the spread of infection.  Infection control measures are designed to break the links.  We can eliminate the causative organism by several methods including:

  • Hand hygiene, which physically removes and/or kills germs on the hands
  • Using good food safety methods
  • Providing safe drinking water
  • Vaccinating people so they do not become reservoirs for infectious agents
  • Treating people who are ill

Linens and Laundry

According to the CDC, except for soiled textiles from patients in isolation, the risk of actual disease transmission from soiled laundry is negligible.  Plymouth Harbor’s laundry facilities are inspected annually and meet all the requirements established by the Agency for Healthcare Administration (AHCA).  Linen is bagged separately when any resident has an illness that could be contagious, as indicated by our health services staff.  These items are washed separately from other linen when it arrives in the Plymouth Harbor laundry.  Staff wear protective gloves and aprons when processing soiled linens.

After all of the facts have been presented and all the suggestions and requirements for preventing the transmission of disease have been made, there remains one controlling factor.  That factor is YOU.  Remember: Spread the Word, Not the Germs!


“Plymouth Harbor has been an important asset to Sarasota for almost 50 years now.  My sister’s first job was in the dining room as a server during her high school years.  I am pleased to be able to serve this wonderful organization, as it serves the residents of our community in many ways.”

Carla Plush Smith
Secretary, Plymouth Harbor Foundation Board of Trustees

Carla Smith, founder of Plush Smith PA, is a 25+ year Florida CPA who has an extensive background in tax, estate and personal financial planning.  Carla served on the Board of Trustees of Plymouth Harbor from 2005 to 2011 and served as Board Chair in 2010 and 2011.  A Sarasota native (unique in itself), Carla is a graduate of Leadership Sarasota and has served as an officer and director on numerous community boards.  She is a graduate of the University of Florida with a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting, and a Master’s in Mental Health Counseling from the University of South Florida.  Carla has also earned designations as a CFP, PFS, CLU, and ChFC and has held her private pilot and nautical captain’s licenses.  She and her husband, Peter, enjoy three grown sons and a golden doodle, are members of the Sarasota Field Club, and enjoy boating, water skiing, and travelling.


We are delighted to share with you a new program of the Plymouth Harbor Foundation, made possible by the generous Gifts of Art that many of you have donated.

The Gifts of Art program will be launched this summer.  You have probably already seen the start of the Energy Center corridor, between the Mayflower Dining Room and the Smith Care Center, being transformed into an art gallery for your viewing pleasure.

Important to note about these art exhibits is that each piece of art was donated and will be identified with information about the art and the donor.

Each new exhibit will be one month long in duration.  During the final week of each exhibit month we will hold a silent auction for all residents, guests, and employees to bid on the art that they would like to purchase.  The winner of each art auction item will be announced at the end of the month.  Proceeds from the Gifts of Art auctions will benefit programs at Plymouth Harbor, to be named at the time the exhibit begins.

We hope you will enjoy viewing these works of art, and will feel inspired to participate in the silent auctions.  More information will follow, as we prepare for the first exhibit soon.

Art lovers . . . stay tuned!

This month marks the one year anniversary of the eTEAM.  If you don’t already know, the eTeam is comprised of volunteer youth who bring their patient smiles and tech savvy to Plymouth Harbor on Saturday mornings. Residents who feel they need some extra help or tutoring on new computers, smart phones, iPads or other devices that seem to confound even the most technologically oriented-adult of a certain age, schedule an appointment with the eSmart eTeam eTechnicians and solve a bundle of puzzles in one session.

We held our first eTeam clinic on June 8, 2013 and it has been a great success ever since.   Thank you to everyone who has asked the eTEAM for assistance – a fair number of our residents have participated.

Special accolades and showers of gratitude are due our wonderful eTEAM members:  Jared White, Paul Nicowski, Sarina Swalm, David Yaegers, and Marinna Okawa. A special word of good luck to David Yeagers who leaves us this summer to start his college studies at the University of Florida in Gainesville.

Curious about what we’ve achieved?  Here are some interesting facts about the eTEAM usage, as of May 1, 2014:

Total Resident Visits: 335

Total Residents Served:110

Total Volunteer Hours:    218


On our recent tour, your Conservation Committee learned much about the Sarasota County Landfill in Nokomis, which is the final destination for Plymouth Harbor garbage. And here is the summary of our findings:

  • It is more than a “Dump.”  It is a multi-tasked, conservation-oriented operation.
  • Sarasota county owns 7,150 acres of which 550 are dedicated to compacting garbage.
  • Garbage is compacted in huge, earthen bowl-shaped areas.  They are gradually built up to a height of 120 feet.
  • Earth bolsters the angled side of the bowl as it rises.  It is then covered by dirt with a large motorized compactor.  Grass is planted on each 120 foot hill.  And then they have to mow the grass!
  • These landfill hills are the highest places in Sarasota County.
  • There is another center that recycles garden waste, prunings, fallen leaves, any plant life.  The number of plant-waste-filled plastic bags is nearly uncountable.  The plea from the landfill director is, “PLEASE DO NOT PUT PRUNINGS, ETC. IN PLASTIC BAGS!”  Each bag has to be split and emptied by an employee before the contents can go into the pile to be turned into mulch.  Then they have to get rid of those thousands of plastic bags.  (Anyone is welcome to help themselves to the mulch.  Just go to the landfill.)

Sue and Tom Elliott—who have been married 56 years—laugh as they finish each other’s sentences and each prods the other to tell life stories in which love of family takes center stage and Plymouth Harbor provides a constant backdrop spanning three generations.

The First Two Generations

It was Tom’s grandparents, Cary Rex and Hazel May “Eldean”—she a former second grade teacher and he retired from the Post Office—who first discovered Sarasota, moving into Plymouth Harbor from Lima, Ohio, in 1966, shortly after Plymouth Harbor’s completion. Tom has vivid memories of visiting Plymouth Harbor as a youth and being denied pie a la mode because it was considered TWO desserts!

Because Tom’s parents, Mary Virginia and Paul, visited his grandparents regularly, they purchased a part-time home at Sarasota Harbor West, before finally moving into Plymouth Harbor full time themselves; Paul lived at Plymouth Harbor for the next five years, until his death at 94, and Mary Virginia for the next twenty years, until her death at 96.

Tom doesn’t need any prodding to describe the courtship of his parents, who met in 1928, when his father Paul was a border in his grandparents’ Lima, Ohio, home. Mary Virginia, then 13, was “determined” that Paul would be her husband…someday. Despite family doubts and not a little opposition, their 1933 marriage would last more than five decades. Paul had an eclectic career, with stints at the WPA, managing construction work at the Toledo Zoo, and the Hickok Oil Corporation, before retiring from the Leonard Refineries in Alma, Michigan. Yet after that they owned and ran Elliott Gas & Oil in Gladwin, MI for ten years before retiring again. Only then did they move on to Florida.

The Story of Sue and Tom

Sue met Tom when he was 17 and she was 15; Tom was the president of the Methodist Youth Fellowship where a friend introduced them. As Sue recalls it, she needed a date for a dance and Tom happened to be handy. They hit it off and have been together ever since, only, as Sue says, “separated by circumstances occasionally.”

Sue graduated with honors from the University of Toledo with a degree as a medical technologist. Tom also attended the University of Toledo and then graduated from Alma College with a degree in Biology. Service in the Army and deployment to Schweinfurt, West Germany interrupted Tom’s education. During those three years of service, Tom says that he and Sue tried to see every castle and visit every museum in the area.

Returning to the States, Tom’s Master’s thesis reflected his interest in what he calls “maintainability”: the intersection between the manufacture of easy-to-maintain equipment and the proper training of equipment users in the maintenance of that equipment. Tom’s fascination with “maintainability” led to a position with newly organized Applied Science Associates (“The Problem Solvers”), where, he says he didn’t just “look forward” to going to work every day—he loved going to work; when he retired as CEO, Applied Science Associates had more than 150 employees and customers on three continents.

Sue and Tom lived in Butler, Pennsylvania, during this time, raising son Daniel and daughter Elizabeth. In addition to their busy careers and a happy family life, both found time for hobbies and activities in their community. An experienced private pilot, Tom taught management at the community college and served as the president of the Butler County Library board and on the board of the Butler City Library. Sue was a member of the Butler Symphony Board, active with the American Association of University Women, and a volunteer on a call-in suicide helpline. Tom smilingly describes Sue as a “semi-famous” quilter: after one of her quilts was featured in a quilting book, the quilt was displayed at Dollywood.

Sue and Tom are enthusiastic cooks and have grown orchids competitively. An early love of sailing led them to competitive sailboat racing, though nowadays, as Tom admits, they prefer more leisurely sailboat cruising.

Regular visits to Plymouth Harbor during their 50-plus-year marriage have given Tom and Sue an overview of both continuity and change. Even though they have witnessed three complete renovations of the dining room, Tom insists that the “warm and caring tone” of Plymouth Harbor, has remained constant. He believes that this consistent tone is due to the long-term relationship between staff and residents: “They enjoy each other’s company.” Tom also credits the close knit residential community itself, where, as he puts it, “People look out for each other.”

“The people here are so interesting,” adds Sue. “Everyone has a depth of character; there’s such a lot of culture here.”

These are only some of the many reasons they are excited about their soon-to-be new home at Plymouth Harbor. Tom and Sue expect to move into Plymouth Harbor after they complete the sale of their home in Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh, sometime this coming winter.

Tom likes to tell the story of how his mother would “drag” visitors on tours of local retirement communities and would, upon returning to Plymouth Harbor, declare to Harry, et al with satisfied assurance that “this is the very best there is.”

While the story of the Elliott family’s powerful connection with Plymouth Harbor may be a bit unusual, spanning as it does three generations, it is just another lovely example of how Plymouth Harbor attracts active, go-getters to the Sarasota community—attracts them and keeps them.

It’s safe to say that Plymouth Harbor will continue to provide families—including the Elliott family—with pie a la mode for generations to come. “We’ve visited for so many years that people thought we lived here!” says Sue. “Now our children and our children’s children will visit us.”

By Helen Kelly

How often have we heard the anguished cry, “is there a doctor in the house?”  You may be surprised to learn there are several doctors residing at Plymouth Harbor.  I became aware of this as I was about to interview one of the new move-in couples, Dr. James & Harriet Ahstrom.  I questioned how long-time residents of River Forest, Illinois, had discovered Plymouth Harbor and was told they had recently been living at The Players Club on Longboat Key.

Upon setting up the interview, I was warmly greeted by Dr. Ahstrom at their North Garden apartment.  I learned he has been an Orthopaedic surgeon with a specialty in hand surgery.  His undergraduate degree was earned at the University of Richmond and his medical degree at Northwestern.  It was there paths crossed with Harriet who graduated with a degree in Bacteriology.

Dr. Ahstrom served in WWII and again in the Korean War when, as a Navy reservist, he was called back to serve from 1950-52 at the 4th field hospital in Taegu.  Among many distinguished memberships too numerous to mention, he was a member of the American Academy of Orthopaedic surgeons, president of the Clinical Orthopaedic Society, has practiced in Oak Park and Downers Grove, Illinois, and the Shriners Hospital for children in Chicago.  He was a member of the Rotary Club Oak Park for 40 years and recently assumed membership in the Rotary Club of Sarasota Keys.

Prior to marriage, Harriet was Bacteriology assistant to the renowned Dr. Louis Sauer, originator of the triple vaccine for diphtheria, polio, and whooping cough.  She confided, however, that she became captivated by the role of wife and mother.  The Ahstroms are the parents of son, Jay, who resides in Wilton, Connecticut, and daughter, Jill, in Flourtown, Pennsylvania, who have gifted them with five grandchildren.

Harriet is obviously an enthusiastic decorator, evidenced by the explosive blue-and-white scheme that dominates their North Garden apartment.  Although very recent occupants, everything was in order and in place from furniture to wall decor.

The Ahstroms, no doubt, are a welcome addition to the Plymouth Harbor family.  However, the doctor is not “on call.”