A Son Expresses The Need for Green House homes in Every Community

By / Posted on June 17th, 2015

A son’s personal experience shapes his support for bringing The Green House model to Maplewood Nursing home, in Cheshire County, NH.

As someone whose father greatly benefited from living in a Green House cottage, I feel compelled to lend my voice in support of the concept as the proposed alternative to the deteriorating Maplewood nursing facility which now serves many needy elders of Cheshire County.

Paul JenkinsMy father was a well-educated, highly respected writer and clergyman who, in his final years of life, had the misfortune to develop Lewy Body Dementia, a disease that resembles a devastating combination of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. It was one of the most difficult experiences of my life to watch this highly articulate man robbed of his joy, his speech, and, eventually, his mind.

When it became evident to our family that my mother could no longer care for my father in their home, we were blessed with the opportunity to be part of a Green House community in Holland, Michigan. The Green House concept is light years ahead of the type of care that has typically been given in places such as Maplewood Center. Maplewood has been a valued and effective facility for many years, but it simply cannot compare to a Green House setting. Green House residents live in private rooms with private baths. They are always treated with respect and dignity. They are referred to as “elders” rather than “patients.” Living, recreating and dining among a small community affords them with companionship that is so vital to their continued health. Family members are always welcomed at meals and other activities.

Before my father entered the Boersma Cottage, he was sinking deeper and deeper into depression, withdrawing from life, and was rapidly losing his desire to live. What struck me as miraculous is that, within a few weeks of his arrival, he started to regain his sense of humor and even had a playful quality about him that had been lacking in recent months. It is true that, because of his dementia, he was no longer fully the man I had known and loved. But the person that he became in his final months was well cared for and enjoyed a quality of life that, in my experience of such care – which is quite extensive – is unparalleled. My only regret is that he didn’t come to a Green House home earlier so that he might have enjoyed even more of its benefits. In the end, his death was a good one and for that I will always be grateful.

The Green House concept is, I believe, at this time the best way to provide quality of life for those in need of long-term care. It respects the dignity of the person and values the gifts that they still bring to the lives of others.

It’s time for Cheshire County to embrace this truly remarkable approach.

The Rev. Mark A. Jenkins

Rector, St. James Episcopal Church, Keene


Seniors Aid New Hampshire at the Pioneer Network Conference

By / Posted on September 9th, 2013

Last month, at the Pioneer Network 2013 Conference, a session entitled “Networking Elders to Provide Them with a Greater Voice,” engaged audience members by inviting Elders themselves to talk about their peer networking and advocacy work.  These Elders were introduced as members of an organization called “Seniors Aid New Hampshire” (SANH). They are a community of Elders that live in Nursing Homes, Assisted Living and Independent living settings throughout their state. With the help of a conference call line, they have joined together each month over the past seven years to host senators, state representatives and members of government agencies in addition to advancing their own community organizing and advocacy agenda. As a result of their organizing, these Elders even provided video testimony in a Senate Committee hearing regarding medication administration.

SANH began in the summer of 2006, when Elders living at different Nursing Homes and Assisted-Living communities in New Hampshire determined that it was “unacceptable for people to go to bed hungry.” The group was assisted by the  New Hampshire Health Care Association in creating a forum for fund-raising and communication to occur. In the early years this group called themselves “Seniors Feed New Hampshire” and in the first year alone raised $42K to assist the New Hampshire Food Bank. In later years the group gained momentum, changed their name and began to focus on other areas of interest that provide opportunities for meaningful resident work and creating communication between Elders living in different long-term care residences across the state.

The session at the Pioneer Network Conference was facilitated by Darlene Cray, a Long-Term Care Ombudsman and Statewide Volunteer Coordinator in New Hampshire and Mark Latham, Administrator of Pleasant View Center, a Nursing Home in Concord, New Hampshire.  In addition to the panel of SANH members, Kathleen Otte from the Administration for Community Living also joined by phone, as well as Jennifer Hilliard, Public Policy Attorney from Leading Age and representatives from Senator Larsen’s office. During the session, Darlene Cray reminded attendees that “When we focus on the ability of the individual, we see Elders.”

The American Healthcare Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) named Seniors Aid New Hampshire as their 2012 National Group Volunteer of the Year.