Electric Energy Takes Green House Adopters Beyond Better!

By / Posted on November 30th, 2016

The energy is always electric when Green House adopters are together. “As a national initiative, amazing things happen when so many changemakers are in the same room,”  shares Senior Director, Susan Ryan, “The opportunity for rich discussion, relationship building and thoughtful questions is irreplaceable. ”   That was certainly the case as over 250 Green House adopters gathered at The 2016 Green House Annual Meeting—Beyond Better.tshirt-shot_web

visit to Green HillHosted in New Jersey, attendees were able to visit two open Green House homes, Morris Hall Meadows and Green Hill.  Representing 30 states and over 200 open homes, the growing Peer Network is one of the greatest values of participating in this initiative.  Green House stakeholder, John Grace, said, “It was nice to attend an intimate gathering where “practical application” is the theme of the day.”

Pre-Conference workshops provided role specific opportunities to explore areas that research proves are vital to the sustainability and success of the model, such as coaching and empowerment.  Senior executives joined President of Center for Innovation, Inc., the sponsor of The Green House Project,  Scott Townsley, to discuss the strategic trends impacting healthcare, and how The Green House model must continue to evolve in order to lead the way to a better tomorrow.

Marc Middleton, CEO of Growing Bolder, opened the meeting with an inspiring message that what the mind believes, the body embraces, and a call to belimarc-middleton_webeve in the potential of elders!  This multimedia presentation thoroughly dismantled the myths of aging, and set a tone of possibility for the rest of the meeting.

With breakout sessions focused on key operational topics like convivium, spirituality, team building and hiring, adopters left the conference with a full ‘toolbox’ of new skills and ideas to eni-am-green-house_webhance their homes and organizations.  An original spoken word piece, called, “I Am Green House”, brought the crowd to their feet, as a shahbaz, a nurse, a family member and an elder shared what it really means to live this movement everyday.

This year, intensive sessions were offered as opportunities to take a  deep dive in areas of dementia, coaching leadership and bringing Green House values into the legacy home.   Hot topics, real discussion, and an impetus to keep wali_question_webgrowing, resonated throughout the conference. The “Inner Circle” was a unique networking space for attendees to meet their peers and help to co-create the future.  Reciprocity of active learning and shared experience is making a difference and changing the world.

Sustainability is crucial in the work that we do, and a quality benchmarking resource was presented to attendees with a tangible charge to never stop improving.  Exciting results are being discovered as the evidence-base for The Green House model grows.

The conference closed with Ashton Applewhite, anti-ageism advocate and author of This Chair Rocks, an Manifesto Against Ageism, sending a passionate appeal to fight ageism in all its forms.  With humor and personal stories, Ashton served as the perfect way to end the conference feeling challenged and  inspired.

susan-speaking_web“THE POWER OF THE MOVEMENT IS YOU!” says, Susan Ryan, to an empowered audience of Green House adopters.  The national initiative is able to push the envelope of what is possible because of the innovative and excellent work of Green House adopters and those stakeholders who are changing what it means to age.

Next year marks the 10th Annual Green House Meeting.  Held in Florida, with host site, John Knox Village, this meeting continues to grow in meaning and scope, as Green House adopters truly go, Beyond Better!

 


Living the Good Life: Sharla Lee

By / Posted on July 13th, 2016

Living

 

“Living the good life” is a blog series celebrating the lives of people living with dementia in Green House homes.  In Green House homes across the country, elders are creative, resourceful and whole people who have a valuable story to share.

 

Sharla Lee lived a colorful life as a performer, gracing many stages and breaking many hearts. Legend has it that she was even asked out on a date by baseball superstar, Joe DiMaggio. When cognitive impairment made it unsafe for her tshahbaz and elder standing and embracingo live on her own, this talented pianist may have faded away, but thanks to Baptist Retirement Community Green House homes in San Angelo, Texas, her star continued to shine bright.

Always the professional, Sharla would wake up at 5:00a every morning in her Green House home in order to practice the piano. She loved to play for the elders during the evening meal, choosing to eat later, after her performance. In Green House homes, the day is centered around the individual elders’ natural rhythms and preferences. The small size enableelder woman and child at pianos the home to run smoothly based on deep knowing relationships rather than task oriented schedules. As a musician, Sharla’s preferred schedule was different than that of others living in The Green House home, and by honoring that, her personhood remained intact despite dementia.
exercises_setting table

Sharla brought joy to others in The Green House home, through her music, and also by being an engaged member of the household. She was made an “honorary shahbaz”, the name given to direct care staff in Green House homes, because she was always willing to help by rolling napkins, setting the table and befriending the other elders in the home. Reciprocity, the ability to receive and also give care, is a key element of Green House homes. As humans, we need to feel a sense of purpose. It may seem like a simple thing, but the value of sharing your gifts with others is something that can’t be overstated.elder man and woman eating on terrace 2

elder woman reading curled in chairMae West once said, “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” Sharla Lee dazzled audiences in San Francisco supper clubs, on cruise ships and thankfully, in her Green House home as well. By knowing Sharla’s story, and creating opportunities for her to shine, her Green House family made sure that Sharla lived “the good life”.

 


Living the Good Life: Dr. Lemuel Rogers

By / Posted on July 5th, 2016

Living

 

“Living the good life” is a blog series celebrating the lives of people living with dementia in Green House homes.  In Green House homes across the country, elders are creative, resourceful and whole people who have a valuable story to share.

Dr. Lemuel Rogers

“Without connections to the world that nurtures our human spirit, we hasten decline” -Susan Ryan, Senior Director, The Green House Project
dr r portraitOur lives are a rich tapestry of interests and experiences, woven together across time.  Sharing and celebrating our unique stories ensures that our personhood is preserved, even as our needs change.  Dr. Lemuel Rogers, was the epitome of dignity; a dapper, intelligent man with a great smile and beautiful singing voice.  He was well known in the community as a respected doctor, and leader of his church.  Meaningful life is a core value of The Green House model.  The means that a person must be deeply known, and have the power to maintain their identity through connections and engagement.

For Dr. Rogers, that meant being respected and acknowledged for the expertise and reputation that took a lifetime to build.  In the home, he preferred to be called “Doctor”, and frequently perused medical journals with former St. John’s medical director, Al Power.  Staying connected to the community that he loved, shahbazim (care staff) supported Dr. Rogers to attend the annual African-American Health Symposium, a church event dr r fraternitydedicated to him and his wife, Gloria.  Being honored for one’s gifts is essential to living the good life.

Work hard, play hard.  Dr. Rogers was also an active member in his fraternity, Omega Psi Phi. His fraternity brothers were frequent visitors at The Green House homes, bringing joy and beautiful music. Dr Roger’s loved to sing and was able to share his talents with others in his home.  See the below video of Dr. Rogers singing “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”.

 

Often, those living with dementia become known solely by their diagnosis.  The beautiful tapestry gets lost amidst the behaviors and medications. In a Green House home, however, the value is placed on WHO that person is, and WHAT will support them in living the good life.  Dr. Rogers was serious, but had a great sense of humor.  dr. r group shotYou really felt like you’d done something special when you made him laugh. When children would come to visit, he would shake their hands very formally when he met them and they loved it. His dementia was pretty advanced by the time he moved to The Green House home, but when a doctor talked with him, or his church or fraternity visited, he always sat up a little straighter, shone a little brighter, and rose to the occasion in conversation. The man just…exuded dignity.

 


GROUNDBREAKING OF CLARK-LINDSEY’S GREEN HOUSE HOMES FOR DEMENTIA CARE

By / Posted on October 2nd, 2015

Green House Homes Will Be First of Their Kind in Champaign County

(Reprinted from Perkins Eastman) Last Thursday, September 24, in Urbana, IL, team members from the Chicago office of international design and architecture firm Perkins Eastman joined leadership from Clark-Lindsey for the groundbreaking of the CCRC’s new small homes for specialized dementia care—one devoted to assisted living and the other for skilled nursing care—that will follow The GREEN HOUSE® model. Each home will feature 12 private bedrooms, individualized care from specially trained caregivers, and home furnishings. The Perkins Eastman design team is led by Principal Jerry Walleck AIA and Associate Principal Ramu Ramachandran AIA, LEED AP, two key members of the firm’s renowned senior living practice area.

clark lindseyClark-Lindsey has partnered with The Green House Project and Perkins Eastman to help usher in a new and superior standard of care for those suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia-related illnesses. The introduction of these homes not only marks the first Green House project in Champaign County but also a major step forward for how Illinois providers and regulatory officials are looking to institute efficient and innovative care models for seniors. Green House homes are designed to provide a personalized model of care within a real home setting, replete with an open kitchen, dining room and other common areas, setting them apart from the traditional institutional model that can resemble a hospital or nursing home.

clark lindsey2The new homes, situated on a 10,000 sf footprint, will feature an architectural design where every inch of space has been carefully considered in order to transform the physical environment to feel more like home. From the outdoor courtyard, library and den areas to the open kitchen providing home cooked meals, these amenities encourage social contact among elders and caregivers. The homes’ design is tailored to maintain existing on-site trees as well as acknowledge the natural surroundings with respect to building proportion, scale and form, while also taking full advantage of the expansive views of adjacent Meadowbrook Park.

“Clark-Lindsey is already known within the industry as a leader and innovator when it comes to care,” says Jerry Walleck, the project’s design lead, “and the new Green House homes are a continuation of that. They will provide invaluable care and services to dementia residents and their families, and it’s an enormous privilege to have played our part in making that happen.” Both homes are scheduled to open in late 2016.

Clark-Lindsey Village was founded in 1978 and is the area’s first and only CCRC. It is one of only eight certified Centers for Successful Aging in the U.S. In addition to its forthcoming dementia care small homes, Clark-Lindsey Village offers extensive independent living accommodations, as well as inpatient and outpatient therapy services, assisted living and skilled nursing care at its Meadowbrook Health Center.

The Green House Project is a radically new national model for skilled nursing care that returns control, dignity and a sense of well-being to elders, their families and direct care staff. In the Green House model, residents receive care in small, self- contained homes organized to deliver individualized care and meaningful relationships between residents and care staff.

About Perkins Eastman
Perkins Eastman is among the top design and architecture firms in the world. With almost 950 employees in 14 locations around the globe, Perkins Eastman practices at every scale of the built environment. From niche buildings to complex projects that enrich whole communities, the firm’s portfolio reflects a dedication to progressive and inventive design that enhances the quality of the human experience. With work in 46 states and more than 40 countries, the firm’s portfolio includes transportation and public infrastructure, high-end residential, commercial, hotels, retail, office buildings, corporate interiors, schools, hospitals, museums, senior living, and public sector facilities. Perkins Eastman provides award-winning design through its offices in North America (New York, NY; Boston, MA; Charlotte, NC; Chicago, IL; Los Angeles, CA; Pittsburgh, PA; San Francisco, CA; Stamford, CT; Toronto, Canada; and Washington, DC); South America (Guayaquil, Ecuador); North Africa and Middle East (Dubai, UAE); and Asia (Mumbai, India, and Shanghai, China).

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The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Dementia

By / Posted on September 10th, 2015

Dr. Al Power will be conducting an all day preconference session along with a plenary and education session at The Eighth Annual Green House Meeting & Celebration in Broomfield, CO from November 16-18th. The annual meeting is for Green House members only and this year’s theme is Better Together.  The title of Dr. Power’s preconference session is “Reframing Dementia.”  His plenary session is entitled “Living Better Together with Dementia: Taking it Further” and his education session is “Real Life Without Antipsychotic Drugs.”  Log-in to the Peer Network website today to register for the meeting so you can hear from Dr. Power first hand!

 

Like most people, I am subject to a regular barrage of media reports, coming from radio, television, internet news outlets, social media and daily RSS feeds. And here is what this information stream has taught me:

If I eat blueberries, I’ll lower my risk of Alzheimer’s. Or was that tomatoes? It now appears that yogurt lowers the risk as well—does that mean blueberry yogurt, or will any old flavor do? Maybe I should have coconut flavored yogurt, because apparently, if all that coconut oil doesn’t kill me with a heart attack, it may make my brain healthier.

And now it appears I may have to replace my plumbing, because a new study suggests that too much copper causes Alzheimer’s; though other medical studies have shown that a high copper intake actually lowers the risk. So which is it? And is lead involved? (I need to know because I tend to chew on my pencils when I do my daily Sudoku puzzles.)

And then there’s the glucose connection, the blood pressure connection, the inflammatory connection, the brain reserve connection, the mood disorder connection, the social connections connection.

And what kind of a teenager was I? Apparently, certain adolescent behaviors raise your risk. One of them is getting drunk; well, thank God, none of us ever did that! Also, it’s a risk if you have a history of adolescent antipsychotic use. (Tell that to the psychiatrists who are finding all kinds of new reasons to prescribe these drugs to young people, from depression to “oppositional disorders”.)

Another risk factor (cue Randy Newman) is being too short. Time to get out the gravity boots? And if that weren’t bad enough, now the folks in Manhattan say dementia can come from exposure to bacterial and viral infections. (Someone sneezed on me just the other day, and I swear my ADAS-Cog score dropped two points!)

Okay everyone, are you listening to me?? STOP! Just…stop. If there were a “Hitchhiker’s Guide to Dementia”, the first words would still be: “Don’t panic.”
Time…to…take…a…deep…breath.

What we have here is a collection of illnesses closely tied to the aging process, and a sequence of changes that may begin decades before we show any outward signs. And we are dissecting all the minutiae of the millions of things we do, eat, drink or experience in our lives—trying to find connections, however tenuous, that we can shoot to the media outlets to fuel the frenzy.

There are a lot of people making money off of our hysteria and paranoia. But it’s much worse than that.

You see, the more we fuel this kind of panic, the more we demonize the condition; and consequently, the more we demonize and dehumanize people who live with cognitive disability. Folks like Dr. Bill Thomas have long warned us that those people who do less or produce less are devalued in our society. It is also now clear that a similar fate befalls those who remember less in our hyper-cognitive, technology-obsessed world.

Here are a couple of known facts to keep in mind: We all die. Many of us who live to a ripe old age will experience changes in various organ functions and capabilities. Many of us will become forgetful as we reach our later years. Those who do are not bad people.

There is so much emphasis on “successful aging” these days—what does that mean? Are you successful if you run marathons until you are 96 and then die in your sleep, or at the completion of some incredible sexual escapade? That’s romantic, but highly subjective and unlikely. More important, this fixation on how we end our lives not only threatens to devalue who we are in our last years, but also how we have lived all of the earlier days of our lives.

And if you don’t make it to the grave with all of your organ functions intact (an oxymoron in itself), what is that called? “Failed aging”? What about people born with developmental disabilities or congenital illness? They would be “failed agers” from the very start. No need to even give them blueberries and yogurt, I guess.

You and I will always be more than the sum of what we can do and what we can remember. So here’s the advice I would put in my “Hitchhiker’s Guide”:

No matter who you are or how you live your life, you have a chance of becoming forgetful as you age. Your risk is never zero, but no one knows your exact “number”. You can almost certainly lower that risk somewhat if you eat well, exercise and do things that are good for your body, mind, and spirit; your risk will probably go up if you abuse any of those. But being obsessive about every little thing you do will likely not improve your odds to a greater extent than healthy moderation.

Find that “sweet spot” that gives you a life worth living. When we stop indulging the fear mongers, we can see the value in people of all abilities. This will help us to visualize a true path to well-being for all.


Still Alice: Still Inspiring

By / Posted on March 6th, 2015

Heather Sawitsky, of White Oak Cottages, writes a moving piece about the movie, Still Alice.  White Oak Cottages are Assisted Living Green House homes where people living with dementia are creative, resourceful and whole.  By creating an environment that is small and warm, and where people are deeply known, The Green House model is a best practice.

still aliceStill Alice, a movie based on Lisa Genova’s novel about a linguistics professor who develops early onset Alzheimer’s, is now in wide release. For those who love people with the disease, and for those who are hoping to avoid this disease (which by my count includes everyone) the question is, “Why would anyone want to see this movie?”

The answer might be because the film adaptation is a poignant and dignified presentation of a disease that is usually described in ways that exaggerate its symptoms and stigmatize its victims. Or it may be because Still Alice presents the experience of the degenerative disease through the eyes of Alice, reminding us that a person with Alzheimer’s still strives for normalcy, involvement, and emotional connection. Or it may be because the wide-angle view of the film speaks to how all of us will need to learn to master loss: of physical abilities, loved ones, and sometimes, memory.

Julianne Moore, who plays the professor Alice Howland, turns in a masterful performance. Determined not to “make it up”, Ms. Moore spent months researching Alzheimer’s disease, speaking with clinicians, women with early onset Alzheimer’s, and family members. She also underwent the same battery of cognitive tests given to those with suspected Alzheimer’s. Her performance carries the film and has earned her an Oscar® nomination.

There is one other element that sets this film apart. One of its directors, Richard Glatzer, was diagnosed with ALS in 2011. There are many parallels between ALS and Alzheimer’s. Both are neurodegenerative diseases that slowly, incrementally rob a person of their abilities. With ALS, patients lose their ability to use their muscles, thus depriving them of their ability to walk, stand, use their hands, speak, and ultimately, breathe. With Alzheimer’s, people are slowly robbed of their ability to find words, remain oriented, practice their professions, and recognize their loved ones.

Still Alice is a powerful, but restrained look at one woman who is trying to hold onto her identity and her place in the world, knowing that each week she will be able to do something less well, but not knowing what the next loss will be. Richard Glatzer’s keen understanding of this terror and his determination to live a full life notwithstanding, help make this a film that will inform and inspire.


"Expect the Best!"

By / Posted on January 15th, 2015

My work often brings to mind my good friend and mentor, Nancy Fox. Nancy is Chief Life Enhancement Officer for Vivage in Colorado, was the first Executive Director of The Eden Alternative™, and has many years’ experience as an administrator and an educator. The lessons she has taught me pop into my head on many occasions.

In 2007, Nancy wrote a book called Journey of a Lifetime: Leadership Pathways to Culture Change in Long-Term Care (available at www.edenalt.org or online booksellers). The book lists ten important principles for enlightened leadership, illustrated by stories of good and not-so-good experiences she has had, and lessons learned. One of these is called “Expect the Best,” a principle that is ignored with alarming regularity in long-term care, on both the provider and the regulator sides.

Here is an example of each:

First, a recent McKnight’s article described a study in the upcoming issue of Geriatric Nursing that can only be described as what my friend Jane Verity would call “a blinding flash of the obvious.” This study of nursing homes in the US and Germany showed that CNAs had a much better work experience if they were notified of the deaths of their elders before discovering it for themselves (such as walking into a room to provide care and finding an empty bed). The study recommended “more mindful” approaches to such transitions for those who have formed close, caring relationships.

Wow. What’s sad about this study—even the need to conduct such a study!—is that it reveals how often we give lip service to honoring our hands-on care partners, but choose actions that say the opposite. Then we are quick to blame those same people for lack of a “work ethic.”

Look at your employee handbook and ask yourself, does this document expect the best of our employees? Does it treat them as responsible adults or as children (or worse yet, as potential criminals)? Then look at the actions and interactions of leaders and managers throughout the day. Are our care partners included in decision-making discussions? Do we ever ask for their opinions or advice?

Expecting the best creates two complementary results—it improves people’s abilities and their accountability. Nancy frequently says that “empowerment is not something you try; it is something you do.” When we approach those who support our elders with an expectation that they are capable of great wisdom and growth, we create an environment where growth can occur and wisdom will blossom. And by treating people as equals, we create an environment where people care about each other and about the consequences of their actions, and accountability thrives.

Such discussions raise the inevitable objection that there are people who will take advantage of your good intentions and try to game the system. Welcome to the planet Earth. The problem not that such people exist; the problem is that we write our policies and choose our actions based on the worst person we can imagine and punish everyone else with our low expectations, rather than addressing (or removing) the individual in question. Nancy would likely say, “Expect the best, (and individually address the worst).”

The second example was raised by Karen Schoeneman, formerly of CMS, in a recent culture change discussion that highlights this issue on the regulatory side. She was upset to hear that surveyors in her home state were not permitting elders to have refrigerators in their rooms because of the concern that a resident with diabetes could potentially enter the room and take something that would not be good for his/her diet.

There is so much wrong with that citation that I could devote an entire post to it. But let’s stick with “Expect the Best,” as it applies to surveyors. The fundamental flaw in our regulatory system, I believe, is that surveyors inhabit a primary identity as enforcers, rather than educators. Therefore, they come into the nursing home expecting the worst and constantly imagining “What could possibly go wrong?”

(Of course, Nancy added her two cents to the discussion thread as only she can do, suggesting that perhaps “surveyors shouldn’t be allowed to drive, because they might hit a diabetic.” If it’s possible to laugh and cry at the same time, that’s what I did when I read her comment.)

Incidentally—to be fair to surveyors—many of them work in states where they are required to be enforcers only, because the rules say that they cannot advise providers, only tell them if what they are doing is “in compliance” or not. Apparently the concern is that surveyors might lose their objectivity if they try to mentor the homes. And apparently the rule makers have never heard of school teachers, who mentor their students every day and still give them quarterly grades. If the regulatory bosses don’t expect the best of their surveyors, then a trickle-down effect at survey time is entirely predictable.

These are two examples of why I sometimes despair that our current system of elder care will never truly create well-being for anyone. There is far too much talk about “culture change” and too little evidence of it. Nancy Fox is one person who has always walked the talk. We would all do well to read, or re-read, Nancy’s book.


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.


BBC Reporter Visits Penfield Green House homes in Rochester, NY

By / Posted on July 30th, 2014

I was contacted by Sally Magnusson, a news anchor from BBC Glasgow and author, whose parents were both pioneers in UK broadcasting. She wrote a book called, Where Memories Go, about her mother’s journey with Alzheimer’s; and she is now planning a book about Alzheimer’s and music. She contacted Dan Cohen (Music and Memory) to visit a home in NYC that’s using iPods, and he suggested she contact me, so she wrote to ask if she could fly up and visit during her trip.

We got together Saturday night to talk about my work on Dementia Beyond Disease and I had suggested that she visit Penfield Green House homes while she was in town. Green House guide, Kris Angevine and the elders/staff nicely accommodated us on Sunday morning for tea. We stopped at Malek’s, my favorite bakery, and got a couple of chocolate babkas, as well as bringing copies of my book for the homes.

When we arrived, Wendy Bacon-Stopani, one of the wonderful Shahbazim, was making a birthday cake, as well as some chicken cordon bleu for lunch. She explained the Shahbaz role to Sally and the collaborative nature of the work, with everyone pitching in to help out. Wendy said she wasn’t a natural chef, but had learned a lot at the home, and it showed!!

We sat at the dining room table sharing coffee, tea, and babka with several elders, including Lou, Martin, Don, Frannie, Marguerite, and Sarah. We shared stories, and we got a house tour from Dorothy who is a great hostess. Lexi, the new house dog also joined in the visit — what a wonderful dog she is!!

Although Sally’s original plan was to talk to the elders about their experiences with music, it was really just more of a social visit and a non-directed conversation. Sally found everyone to be delightful and loved the home. It was a whirlwind tour of innovation stateside, that will surely be remembered by this BBC reporter.


Great Minds Gala at PEAK Leadership Summit

By / Posted on March 10th, 2014

This year the Leading Age PEAK Leadership Summit will be held March 17-19 in Washington D.C. and THE GREEN HOUSE® Project is excited to send some of our team members to the event.  This summit aims to expand the world of possibilities for aging; a vision we support and work toward wholeheartedly. Not only will we engage with peers in the field by attending sessions and exhibiting at the summit but also through our sponsorship of the Great Minds Gala.

The Great Minds Gala is a fundraising event that will honor Leading Age members and other individuals in the field who have shown courage and leadership as they work tirelessly to improve the lives of those affected by Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.  One honoree at the event will be Glen Campbell, renowned country music singer and actor, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2011.

You can join the summit conversation by following @LarryMinnix, @LeadingAge and @LeadingAgeCAST on Twitter using #PEAK14 or by liking the Leading Age PEAK Summit Facebook page.

 


Convivium: Good Food and Good Company leads to Good Outcomes

By / Posted on March 7th, 2014

Mealtime is an important part of The Green House day. We even have a name for it, “convivium”. This term describes good food, good company and good conversation. In every Green House home, there is an open kitchen where food is cooked in the home, and it is served around one large table to create a feeling of belonging. Smells of delicious food waft through the air, and the dining room table is filled with conversation as elders, staff members and visitors sit together and form an intentional community. This normalized environment creates not only a sense of well-being, but also has a positive clinical impact. Watch the below short video to hear what a dietitian from a Green House home says about her experience:

At the Table: Dining and Nutrition in The Green House Model (2 mins 33 secs) from The Green House Project on Vimeo.

According to a recent article in McKnight’s Long Term Care News, “’Undernutrition’ is the most common dietary problem related to dementia… This refers to insufficient intake of calories, protein or other nutrients. It affects up to 30% of residents in long-term care facilities…” The article goes on to talk about how improving the environment and increasing staff education can help to improve elder nutrition. Through intentional design and deep education, Green House homes have seen positive outcomes and stories that demonstrate the value of focusing on food and mealtime.

Dr. Bill Thomas, founder of The Green House model, has always seen food as central to how we connect as human beings. As our physical needs increase to a skilled nursing level—this deep human factor does not change. In this short video below, Dr. Thomas shares his vision for “convivium”. By creating an environment of deep knowing where we honor an elder’s preferences and natural rhythms, issues like “undernutrition” will dissipate.

Convivium from The Green House Project on Vimeo.


Creative Storytelling…A Magic Time for Elders and Staff

By / Posted on February 12th, 2014

For the past 3 years Brittany Swanson has been a Social Worker for four Green House homes – Providence Seward Mountain Haven, in AlaskaBrittany began her journey in Social Work in 2003 at the University of Hawaii, but returned to her home state of Alaska to complete her Bachelors in Social Work.  She has been a licensed Social Worker since 2010, and began working with the Providence Seward Mountain Haven Green House homes in January 2011.  Brittany is quick to express how grateful she is for the opportunity to work in the homes, and believes it has pushed her further in her career than she ever expected!

My first experience with TimeSlips® was during a training provided by the Alzheimer’s Resource of Alaska at our Green House home. My co-workers and I were abuzz with excitement as we all met in Raven Lodge to assist the facilitator with the session. Our staff and Elders gathered around the dining table and were warmly welcomed to the storytelling session. We were handed the same black and white image; a bald, chubby baby sitting in an empty brief case.  What ensued was pure magic. The smiles and laughter began immediately as our Elders shared their thoughts and ideas composing their very own story. Every idea was included and there were absolutely no wrong answers. Even a dispute among the Elders was incorporated into the story when asked “What do we want to call him?”

“His name is Harry.”  “No, it’s Bill.” “He looks like a Frank to me!”

Approximately 2 hours later I was begging my supervisor to fund my training to become a certified facilitator so I could bring these storytelling sessions to Seward Mountain Haven on a regular basis. She kindly obliged and I celebrated.

As Green House staff, we are well versed in meaningful life engagement, but the benefits I saw in using TimeSlips were unlike any other activity I have experienced.  As a Green House Social Worker I often find we welcome new Elders to Seward Mountain Haven and discover they feel a lack in their ability to contribute anything of “value” to society. It is not uncommon as we age to sense we have lost our social roles as a lifelong teacher, parent or fisherman for example.  TimeSlips can fill that social role by allowing the Elder to become the storyteller in a safe environment and provide that sense of contribution and value once again. Our Elders are proud of their TimeSlips stories and revel in pride as we read them in their entirety.  

Anyone can become a certified facilitator for the TimeSlips method by completing an online course which teaches the history and development of the program, as well as how to implement it with Elders in varying stages of dementia. Once you complete your course, you can practice TimeSlips with your Elders and submit your completed stories to a Certified Master Trainer for review. A time is then set to complete an assessment interview to verify you understand the method and are confident in its implementation. Then you are good to go! TimeSlips works best with Elders who are in the mid to late stages of dementia, as these stages allow for the creation of an environment of open creativity. Elders who are in the early stages of dementia may become hung up on the “facts” and feel silly about making up a story they don’t know.

One of our goals at Seward Mountain Haven is to educate our community on dementia and continue to break down stereotypes and stigmas associated with nursing homes. In effort to do so, we created beautiful poster-size TimeSlips to display at the annual Seward Music and Arts Festival. The community was able to enjoy reading our Elder’s stories which sparked interest in other organizations to learn about the method and the benefits of the program’s implementation. In the near future, we hope to begin intergenerational projects between our Elders and local elementary school students using the TimeSlips method. We intend to make TimeSlips a regularly scheduled event at Seward Mountain Haven, so come join us anytime!