Monday, January 11, 2016
The Green House Project - Caring Homes for Meaningful Lives
KAY LARMOR, 71, was in and out of conventional nursing homes. Then she found Green House homes at Porter Hills, in Grand Rapids, Mich., which is helping to remake long-term care.
Each home houses only 10 elderly people, and each person has a bedroom and bathroom. Ms. Larmor has private space, is able to order breakfast when she wants it and enjoys home-style cooking, including some of her favorites, like goulash and spaghetti with meatballs. Residents can gather around a fireplace in the common room, and Ms. Larmor enjoys chatting with aides in the open kitchen.
“This is my home,” said Ms. Larmor, a retired addiction counselor. “And I feel cared for.”
For greater warmth and nurturing, seniors are turning to small residences like Green House, which is part of a complex of senior housing and care options, and privately owned care homes that are often unmarked in residential neighborhoods. They are usually newer, sometimes cheaper, and generally offer more customized care than most nursing homes.
Nursing homes have, of course, gotten plenty of criticism over the years. They are regulated by states and the federal government, but quality varies widely. And even the best ones are typically modeled after hospitals, so aides often wear scrubs and hallways can feel antiseptic.
The ratio of residents to aides can be high too, creating more isolation for residents.
“Many nursing homes don’t have enough staff,” said Lori Smetanka, director of the National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center. “This is one of the biggest complaints.”
Dr. Bill Thomas, a Harvard-educated geriatrician, saw that loneliness and isolation were big problems in elder care. So he helped found the Green House project in 2003, which Porter Hills uses as a model that is now spreading around the country.
To ensure quality, Green House homes are trademarked and built to strict certifications. Nurturing values and a more active life are encouraged. An aide, called shahbaz — a Persian word that means a royal falcon that oversees the kingdom — functions as a leader, not just a servant.
“Green homes were developed from a blank sheet of paper,” said Scott Brown, director of outreach at the Green House Project. The results, he said, have been encouraging. Studies show that residents have higher-quality lives and significantly fewer hospital readmissions.
Best of all, Ms. Smetanka said, is that “residents like the coziness.”
Green House homes are still hard to find. Currently 180 Green House projects operate in 28 states; an additional 150 are in development. That compares with about 15,700 nursing homes in the United States housing 1.4 million people.
Small Residences for the Elderly Provide Personal Homelike Care
The Green House Project