Green House Founder Honored as Top Influencer in Aging

By / Posted on October 29th, 2015

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The Green House Project’s founder and Director of Innovation, Dr. Bill Thomas, has been honored as one of the 50 remarkable people on Next Avenue’s first annual “Influencers in Aging” list.

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Green House founder, Dr. Bill Thomas

“We need elders more than ever, because of their unique ability to enrich us. They are the human equivalent to super glue,” said Dr. Thomas.

The list, which was published on October 28, 2015, includes thought leaders, executives, writers, artists, researchers, experts and everyday people who are changing how we age and think about aging in America.

The 2015 Influencers in Aging list also honors surgeon and author Dr. Atul Gawande as “Influencer of the Year”. A Harvard Medical School professor and staff writer for The New Yorker, Dr. Gawande is the author of the bestselling “Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End.” Dr. Gawande’s book features The Green House Project as an example of successfully meeting the needs of the whole person rather than simply their diagnosis.

The individuals named as 2015 Influencers in Aging have made important contributions in Next Avenue’s 5 areas of focus:
• Caregiving
• Health & Well-Being
• Living & Learning
• Money & Security
• Work & Purpose

Learn about all 50 Influencers in Aging.


THE GREEN HOUSE PROJECT REPRESENTED AT THE WHITE HOUSE CONFERENCE ON AGING

By / Posted on July 13th, 2015

For Immediate Release: Friday, July 10, 2015

 Contact: Rachel McLean, rmclean@capitalimpact.org, 703-850-1897

Kavan Peterson, kavanpeterson@gmail.com, 206-305-2798

 

THE GREEN HOUSE PROJECT REPRESENTED AT THE WHITE HOUSE CONFERENCE ON AGING

Innovative Model for Elder Care Receives Attention from National Leadership

Arlington, VA: The Green House Project’s landmark approach to skilled nursing care will be highlighted at the White House Conference on Aging.  The objective of the conference, which happens only once every 10 years, is to identify and advance actions to improve the quality of life of older Americans, and to look ahead to the issues that will help shape the landscape for older Americans for the next decade.

Since 2003, Green House homes have gone beyond simply providing quality medical care to elders: they’ve offered an environment and support system that enables each person to retain their individuality, and to live in a real home.

Nora Super, executive director at the White House Conference on Aging, recently visited the Leonard Florence Center for Living in Massachusetts and video footage from this visit will be shown during the event.  This conference will draw greater attention to the model that is changing the face of elder care throughout the country.

“We live in an exciting era of growth and change in which outdated models of long term care are, at long last, being disrupted and replaced,” said Bill Thomas, geriatrician and founder of The Green House Project, who will attend the conference. “I am delighted that the White House Conference on Aging will be bringing well deserved attention to how we’re helping America reimagine care and caregiving in the 21st Century.”

Green House homes, which serve only 10-12 elders at a time, have private rooms and baths and a common, open kitchen. Supportive and versatile caregivers deliver outstanding care and engage in deep knowing relationships with elders. By comprehensively transforming the architecture, organizational design and philosophy of care, the model provides elders with high quality health care and a high quality of life that far exceeds the experience in traditional nursing homes.

In 2003, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation helped pioneer the first Green House home in Tupelo, Mississippi. Today, more than 180 Green House homes are in existence in 28 states across the country, and more than 150 are in development.

Not only are Green House homes rising in popularity, they have been shown to reduce costs of care and treatment and offer a solution to delivering higher quality care at a competitive cost in the U.S.

“The Green House model is based in the belief that all people deserve to live their whole life to its fullest,” said Susan Frazier, senior director of The Green House Project. “With a decade of proven success, we are at a tipping point for the growth of this model and see the power that real home has on the health and wellbeing of elders and those who love them.”

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The Green House Project

A partnership between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Capital Impact Partners and the Center for Growing and Becoming, The Green House Project provides consulting, organizational development services,  and ongoing support to providers and local organizations to support the development and operation of Green House homes across the country. To date, more than 180 Green Home homes are in operation.

 

 


Bill Thomas, Aging is “Life’s Most Dangerous Game”

By / Posted on April 28th, 2015

IMG_0076In his Age of Disruption Tour, Dr. Bill Thomas promises a wide ranging discussion about society’s perspective on aging and what he calls, “life’s most dangerous game.” Nearly 300 people turned out to beautiful Nelson Hall at Elim Park Baptist Home in Cheshire, Connecticut to hear Dr. Thomas, joined by musician Nate Richardson.

As people entered, they were greeted by the sound of drumming and a blackboard with where people completed the phrase “as I age I dare to….” Everyone was encouraged inscribe their “dare” on their own personal shaker, and to contribute their own rhythm to the drumming.
Combining music, story-telling and multi-media, the performance seeks to debunk our pre-occupation and romance with the perfection of youth. As Dr. Thomas, demonstrates with a teenage picture of himself, braces and all, the reality is often not quite as rosy as the ideal. The romantic notion of youth is perpetuated with an anti-aging fantasy, which can be seen in the myriad products and services that claim to reverse the effects of aging.

Dr. Thomas proposes an alternative. Age takes things away, but it also offers new gifts. While today’s society emphasizes the losses, we can choose to see aging rather as the transcendence of youth. As we age what we’re good at changes, and we move beyond the cares and priorities that consumed us when we were younger.

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The key for a successful older life is to be able to discover “re-imagination”. Youth is about imagination and possibilities. Then people surrender their many dreams, and narrow their focus. They trade possibility for competence. As they become defined by their competence, they are afraid to try new things because, they’re afraid of looking foolish. In order to age well, we must let go of this fear, and regain some of those dreams, or find new ones.

Re-imagination is about creating opportunities to learn and grow. It’s about giving up competence for possibility. Take risks, because you never know what you might find. And taking these risks is life’s most dangerous game.


Dr. Bill Thomas, Talks to Provider Magazine about Person-Centered Care

By / Posted on April 13th, 2015

In an exclusive interview with Provider, Dr. Thomas casts the vision of living in a world where the ageist slur, “elderly” is no longer a part of polite conversation.  He says, “Think back in memory to the last time an older person referred to themselves as ‘elderly.’ People don’t introduce themselves by saying, ‘Hi, I’m Bob’s elderly mother.’ That’s put onto them. That’s the definition of a slur.”  Dr. Bill Thomas believes that to change long term care, we need to change the larger societal attitudes toward getting old.

In pursuit of this reality, Dr. Thomas is hitting the road for the Age of Disruption Tour, “I’m going on tour again, starting in April,” [Dr. Bill Thomas] tells Provider. “I feel a responsibility to have an impact on not just long term care, but how our country views aging and how our country thinks about older people. I think that many of the issues we deal with in long term care are driven by deep, cultural misunderstandings about aging.”  Part of the tour will be an old-fashioned rap session, with Thomas sitting down with leaders, that “explores new ideas, practices, and models to transform the experience of care and caregiving,” the tour’s ad copy says.

While there have been great strides to create opportunities for elders to live a life worth living, we have a long way to go… and there is always the danger of a good idea being turned into a marketing gimic, rather than the real deal.  Take “person-centered care” for an example, “The problem with person-centered care,” Thomas says, “is that it’s possible for people to become satisfied with the name and to actually lose interest in the hard work that’s required to turn the name into a lived experience. The words are everywhere, but the meaning of the words is changing… What we really mean by person-centered care is relationship-rich care.”

In The Green House model, relationships are the cornerstone of success.  The deep knowing relationships between elders and the direct care staff facilitates a familiarity that leads to positive outcomes, including increased workflow, cost savings, and health outcomes.

Dr. Thomas has truly made an impact on the field of aging, as the reporter says, “he is a founding father of a revolution. (How many other Birkenstock-wearing gerontologists are getting shout-outs from the Senate floor?)”  As he embarks on this latest adventure, there will be new ideas shared, fires stoked, and people moved to action… bringing us ever closer to the ideal of meaningful lives for all.

To read the full article >>


Dr. Bill Thomas: Creating Real Home with Increased Acuity

By / Posted on February 25th, 2015

As Elders living in Green House homes age in place it is important that we resist the urge to revert back to institutional practices to solve the obstacles that may be associated with their changing care needs. During a Peer Network webinar last month, adopters had the opportunity to hear Dr. Bill Thomas discuss the topic of increasing acuity of Elders in Green House homes and his recommendations for sustaining the Green House core value of real home.

Participants on the call were asked to think about Florence Nightingale and the new approach and standard of practice that she brought to the existing institutions of her time. Dr. Thomas believes that we are descendants of her philosophy of care and therefore must be prepared to care for Elders in sickness and in health.

A few recommendations he provided during the conversation included:

– Having a clear understanding of the advanced care directives of Elders living in Green House homes and what they want when their health changes acutely.  It is important to have these conversations in advance of illness and revisit the topic as needed

– To better understand how quality acute care services are provided in a home, have conversations with the hospice and home care agencies in your community

– Understand from Elders and their loved ones whether they want maximum care or maximum treatment at the end of life. It isn’t possible to provide both simultaneously.

In many institutional long-term care settings a person is placed in the “sick role” and then kept there for the remainder of their life. Green House homes are unique in that they are a place of recovery, rejuvenation and a dedication to the belief that all people have the right to live with dignity, autonomy and purpose until their last breath.


Music Can Be at the Heart of a Life Worth Living

By / Posted on January 6th, 2015

As a geriatrician, I’ve spent much of my time in the company of elders exploring life beyond adulthood. The shortcomings of our medical system to meet the human needs of elders as they navigate this uncharted territory are too numerous to list. Particularly when it comes to the way in which it treats people living with dementia. Of the 1.5 million people who have been institutionalized for medical problems, about 80 percent have been segregated from the general population because they are living with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

Because our medical system treats the trials of sickness, aging and changing cognitive ability exclusively as medical concerns, these people are too often tucked away from sight and treated with powerful psychotropic drugs. The treatment is not aimed at providing relief or a cure, but at making the patient more manageable – at the cost of hundreds of millions of dollars for drugs that provide limited relief and cause significant side effects.

For more than a decade, a handful of passionate organizations and advocates like myself have argued, and proved, that it can be different. Programs like The Eden Alternative, Ecumen’s Awakenings (http://www.ecumenawakenings.org), Anne Basting’s Timeslips (http://www.timeslips.org) and Dr. Al Power’s book “Dementia Beyond Drugs” demonstrate that non-pharmacological interventions for dementia provide meaningful benefits without the cost or the dangers of psychotropic drugs.

One of the most exciting of these new techniques is also the most elegantly simple – providing personalized music to people living with dementia.

The benefits of providing music to a person who has lost access to it include better memory, improved mood, decreased pain, increased engagement and enhanced well-being. Clinical studies demonstrate that it is possible for personalized music to have a greater effect than any medication.

Anyone who has doubts about the efficacy of personalized music can watch the technique graphically demonstrated in Alive Inside, the groundbreaking documentary on music and memory that is now available on DVD and streaming on Netflix.

I was honored to participate in the filming of Alive Inside with director Michael Rossato-Bennett. Time and again, Michael’s camera captured small miracles as life re-ignites in the eyes of people who have long been unresponsive after they are exposed to familiar, beloved tunes.

This simple, elegant film opens the door to a conversation about how we think about aging in general and about what we think makes a life worth living. For too long we have put the fate of our elders – our fate – into the hands of a medical system designed to focus exclusively on the repair of health and ignore what makes life significant. We’re not going to see music in the lives of every old person until we confront our own fear of aging and our own fear of death and demand a long term care system that does more than provide for safety and protection of elders. If we do that, we can build a society where nursing home means “nurturing” home. Where people go there to grow and live and love and laugh and listen to good music.

Music can be at the heart of the conversation about what makes a life worth living.