By Frank Dornfest / Posted on March 29th, 2017
For the last few years, I have served as a Sage (volunteer who supports and advises the self managed work team) at The Green House homes of Mirasol. Recently, my role was reversed, when I moved in to recover after an extremely taxing and debilitating surgery. These homes are listed as 5 Star by Medicare and Medicaid, a wonderful professional endorsement. I can tell you, however, that the essence of what I experienced, goes far beyond that checklist, and their stellar outcomes reflect something much deeper and more comprehensive.
The Green House homes were the only attractive option for rehab within 20 minutes from my home. Because I know how popular The Green House homes are, I was worried that there would not be space for me. I was delighted to be able recover in a Real Home. I knew that being a volunteer would be very different from being a guest in the community, but I couldn’t have predicted how impressed I would be, or the gratitude I would feel.
The Green House team ensured that the process was smooth and dignified from the very beginning. They managed all the hospital paperwork, follow-up appointments and coordination, which in my mind already goes leagues above 5 stars! The driver’s vehicle enabled me to sit comfortably up front, and he even offered me clip-on sunglasses, my choice of music and a warm blanket (an important touch on a freezing Colorado day). We quickly fell into a comfortable chat and discovered many things that we had in common.
When I arrived, I was greeted warmly, like a long-lost, favorite uncle! The Shahbazim (direct care staff) offered me the choice of going to my room for a rest, or staying at the table for a meal. Having already having discovered my dietary preferences, they offered to make something special, just for me. The whole home smelled scrumptious when I came in the front door! Just being there made me feel better, and I had a renewed appreciation for the airiness of the dining area, the good smells of the kitchen, and the warm, inviting fireplace area.
We went to my room – private room with private bathroom, thank goodness. As I was oriented, I was reminded that no room is more than six doors from the hearth, and this was confirmed the next morning by the aroma of breakfast wafting into my bedroom. How refreshing to recover without the long and disorienting corridors lined with carts of stale food or unmentionables waiting to be taken out back. At no stage
was I “parked” anywhere in the house, as I have seen in other nursing homes, left alone to wait. To be treated like a person, rather than an object; what this did for my well-being, I can’t begin to measure.
Dinner was a very communal event, and I felt very welcomed by my fellow elders at the table. Some required help with eating, which the Shahbazim did casually and warmly with considerable skill and NO DEMEANING BIBS. It immediately felt like the elders were interested in me as a fellow member of the house and its extended family of elders, staff and family members. The feeling of family was beautifully illustrated, as one elder spontaneously went over to another elder, who seemed unhappy, and simply gave him a hug. It was then that I was brought to tears, so moved by the atmosphere of support and caring. The elders are empowered to care and support each other, creating a community of reciprocity, where everyone has something to offer.
The hearth in the center of the house is a place where elders and Shahbazim could naturally get to know each other more deeply, creating mutually supportive relationships as our stories are shared. What a realization to know that the more deeply we know each other, the more we are valued. These relationships enable the elders and Shahbazim to go beyond medical needs, and become connected, helping each other to live the best life possible.
The staff appeared to be encouraged to stop over each day and chat for a while just to get to know me better. I felt understood, and like the things that were important to me, were important to them. If I had a visitor (like my wife of 51 years) or was engaged elsewhere, my nurse would ask if I would prefer she come back later. She put me in the driver seat of my care, and made me feel like she honored my privacy and dignity. The Shahbazim seemed to anticipate my needs, incorporating what they learned about me from our conversations, and providing personalized care that went well beyond my physical needs. Team members would stop by at the end of their shift to just chat about their plans for the rest of the day, to ask advice, or to ask me about my life stories. This genuine caring, was something that I hadn’t experienced in other nursing home/rehab settings, and it was so gratifying and replenishing. To be known and truly valued, this is better than the best medicine.
What a phenomenal rehabilitation experience, delivered by wonderful people who love their
job, love the people they work with and the elders they serve. The Green House homes provide opportunities for these open-hearted people to grow and develop their already extraordinary gifts. I am honored to be able to share my experience as a testimonial to others who are seeking a place where they can recover, not only physically, but holistically. It is because of this experience that I healed so rapidly, with caring and the preservation of my dignity.
Learn more about The Green House homes at Mirasol>>
By Jemi Mansfield / Posted on September 21st, 2016
Jemi Mansfield is the Guide for The Green House homes at Cedar Sinai Park, and the Director of Spiritual Life for the organization. Cedar Sinai Park opened their first Green House home in July 2016, and the self managed work team created a beautiful welcoming ritual to make sure that the elders felt special and loved as they moved into their new home. The below story is an account of what can happen when a team is empowered to make decisions that bring value to their role, their home and those whose lives they touch.
Right from the start, the self managed work team (called shahbazim) in our Green House home knew they wanted to have a small gift waiting in the bedrooms as the elders moved in – something special and personalized to really make it feel like home. Jane, a shahbaz, recalled that when she and her husband went away for their 40th anniversary the hotel surprised them not only with champagne and
chocolates in their room but also a banner hanging in the lobby. “It was unexpected and so touching,” she said. That and similar experiences shared by others laid the foundation for a gift bag filled with goodies awaiting residents. A list of personal care items was compiled: shampoo, lotion, toothbrush and paste, shaving gear for the gents, etc. – and the Shahbazim took off on an impromptu shopping trip to Dollar Tree, which was a highlight for Carol during the practicum weeks. “I liked that we worked together to plan the list and then shop,” she said. “Nothing went into the basket that we didn’t all agree upon – a real team effort.” They also bought welcome cards, which were personalized for each resident and signed by the entire team. On July 25th, move-in day, each gift bag was festooned with a cheery balloon and placed in a prominent spot alongside an African Violet plant for each resident: a reminder of the roots of the Eden Alternative to bring living things into each home.
Everyone knew that the goodie bags were going to be a hit, but the star of the welcome gifts is really the blanket. Jane had hit upon the idea during a brainstorming session – that each resident should be given something uniquely theirs to keep and enjoy in the house. She suggested a crocheted lap blanket, made by volunteers. The group jumped on the notion immediately but acknowledged that, at less than two weeks to opening, they faced a lack of time to pull together a project of this size. Nicole, a member of the self managed team, mentioned that her son, who has autism and touch sensitivity, has a favorite type of blanket that she buys at Costco. “It’s beyond soft,” she explained. “It offers him comfort and warmth, and that’s what we want our residents to experience.” She brought in a sample the next day, and the group of Shahbazim were sold: it truly was the softest blanket in the world.
The finishing touch was to personalize the gift. Each resident’s blanket was embroidered with his or her first name and the date of move in: July 25, 2016. The blankets were presented to the elders by the Shahbazim at the first dinner, as they enjoyed “convivium” (good food with good company) around the big table where meals are served together. Tony, a shahbaz, created a lively atmosphere as he led all in a boisterous round of the “Name Game”, welcoming each elder to their new home.
As new residents eventually move in, they will receive their own blanket, emblazoned with their name and move-in date to denote their place in the household. As Alisa, another shahbaz, pointed out, “This is a fresh start for our residents. A new setting, a new chapter, a new home. It’s right that they should start this chapter with something new and truly theirs.”
In the days that followed, we received a sweet note from Maureen, whose sister is among the first residents (the Alpha House Twelve, we lovingly call them). The note reads, “To all you dear people who gave Pam such a wonderful welcome to her new home. Last Monday, July 25, was a red letter day which we will always remember when we look at her beautiful new blanket and all the lovely bag of presents, card, balloon and flowers. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you do for Pam. You are truly wonderful!”
By Admin / Posted on July 28th, 2015
Chelsea Jewish Foundation is an innovative organization that has infused meaningful life across all of their communities. In addition to Chelsea Jewish Nursing Home, they also operate the groundbreaking Leonard Florence Center for Living that includes 10 Green House homes in a high rise structure, serving elders, short term rehabilitation and those living with MS and ALS.
The Chelsea Jewish Nursing Home’s first wedding in its 96 year history took place on Friday, July 10, 2015. Rose Stetson, a 91 year old resident, truly wanted to see her son Kevin get married and her son couldn’t imagine his mom not being present. What better place for a wedding than Rose’s home at Chelsea Jewish Nursing Home? Kevin and Sharon were married by Sharon’s father, who became a Life Minister and officiated the ceremony. The bride’s daughter, Lexie, was the maid of honor and Rose’s grandson, Tim, was the best man. All in all, it was a wonderful family affair on a beautiful July day.
By Meaghan McMahon / Posted on April 24th, 2015
“By 2030, twenty percent of our population will be over the age of 65. And by 2050, there will be 27 million people in this country who will need assistance with everyday living. As a nation, we cannot afford to not have a plan for this.”
This is how Ai-jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), challenged the audience to consider the reality of our Elder Boom during her Age of Dignity book talk last week at the AFL-CIO in Washington, D.C.
According to Ai-jen, one plan that will provide stability and protection for the most vulnerable among us is the creation of a national care grid to increase creative solutions and choices for those in need of long-term care. Some examples of innovative organizations that will make up the fabric of this grid are Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORCs), Villages and Green House homes.
As co-director of Caring Across Generations , Ai-jen encouraged the audience to recognize the importance of building a national movement to improve care. She explained that we must protect what we have built so far and work together to create what we will need in the future.
By Admin / Posted on April 14th, 2015
Helen M Rausch is a member of a creative writing group at The New Jewish Home, Manhattan division. In this poem, she expresses her feelings of hope for The 22 Green House homes that are being built by the organization.
on a desert island
with only a tree and
a fairy godmother
“I’ve helped you all your
life”, said she
“What magic can I perform
now, as you lean
against this tree, isolated,
with only a book
to entertain you?” “Water,
water,” I cried, “preferably
and a slice of lemon, please,
to titillate my taste buds!”
“You’re granted THREE wishes,”
she explained . . .
“You’re down to one!–
What will it be?” (Don’t forget–
there’s only me, the deep blue
sea . . . and the single tree!)
“What will your third wish be?”
“A room of my own”, I said loudly,
“with space for books, and a
window view (a terrace, too?)”
Stymied, but only temporarily,
she granted my wishes three,
but said, “The third will have to wait
for the Green House building
on 97th Street”*
*I could, by way of a third, have
asked for unlimited wishes, but
we all know reality . . .
-Helen M. Rausch
April 2015, Creative Writing Group
At age 85, Helen is devoting more time than ever before to poetry. Although she was a Creative Writing major at Queens College, Flushing, New York (close to where she grew up), she only began to pursue her “true calling” (writing poetry) in her mid-fifties. She is also developing another important interest, painting with acrylics, at The New Jewish Home, Manhattan Division. The Home is actively seeking to incorporate new approaches based on the Green House model into its practices.
She earned a doctorate at Columbia’s Teachers College, and pursued a varied career in early childhood education and teacher education. She has enjoyed travel over the years, and spent five wonderful retirement years working at Yellowstone Park. She is currently president of the Resident Council at the Home, and has been very active in the development of the residents’ newsletter.
By Meaghan McMahon / Posted on March 3rd, 2015
In the latest issue of TIME Magazine, author and director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) Ai-jen Poo, discusses the coming Elder boom and how older adults and their care partners deserve to live with dignity. When asked what exactly is wrong with today’s nursing homes she replies, “There are great nursing homes. The Green House Project is a different kind of model. But those are, I think, more the exception than the rule.”
As Green House adopters across the country work every day to create caring homes for meaningful lives, we must work together to make this model the rule rather than the exception. How do we ensure that Green House homes are available in every community across America? Quite simply we need to make the model an integrated extension of the community itself where Elders and their care partners enjoy a relationship based on the power of interdependence.
“We must take action now to plan for our grandparents’ futures as well as our own futures. When we really examine the scope and scale of the coming elder boom, we won’t have a choice but to make care a priority. Everyone will be touched by this change in the American demographic. We’re going to have to rethink everything- how we live, work, and play, and especially how we organize our family and community life: how we take care of each other across generations.”
Now is the time to come together to make profound and lasting change in the world of long-term services and supports.
Are you ready?
By Admin / Posted on November 26th, 2014
Twylah and David Haun are residents of John Knox Village, in Pompano Beach, Fl, and were a part of a group from Independent Living who researched The Green House model and presented it to Administration.
— TheGreenHouseProject (@GreenHouse_Proj) November 18, 2014
The administration at John Knox Village, decided that their excellent nursing home was getting old, and needed to be updated. The residents of John Knox insisted that whatever was built had to have a private room with private bath for each person. When David first heard about The Green House model, he was skeptical. He thought it just seemed too good to be true. He feared our local staff wouldn’t accept the concept, and he questioned the quality and efficiency of preparing meals in each home. Finally he wondered how wise it was to pay outside Green House “experts” who might dictate plans and organization for John Knox.
In 2011, David suggested a visit some existing Green House homes to learn more. He felt it wasn’t fair to condemn the concept in ignorance. The possibility of what could be discovered was exciting.
On the first visit to Buckner Westminster Place, in Longview, TX, Twylah remembers thinking, “Wow, this doesn’t look like a nursing home at all!” As their exploration continued, they entered the GH Cottages of Wentworth Place, in Magnolia, Arkansas, and became more and more excited, Tywlah proclaimed “why would we want to recreate the wheel, this is a proven model”.
Both David and Twylah were impressed with the number of Shahbazim (versatile worker that serves as direct care staff) and Guides saying how thrilled they were with the quality of care The Green House model enabled them to give their elders. “I never would want to work in a traditional style again” seemed to be a recurring theme.
By the fourth Green House visit in The Green House Homes at Traceway in Tupelo, MS, David found that all of his questions and reservations regarding the cost, the food, and the organization were answered. He was convinced. He decided that working with The Green House Project was a sure thing. Just as The Ritz Carlton is a proven model for creating an excellent hotel, John Knox should depend on The Green House model to guide building design, as well as, education and organizational redesign. The Green House homes at John Knox Village will look different than the various homes around the country, because they will reflect the culture of John Knox Village, but they will have the proven elements and core values of Real Home, Meaningful Life and Empowered Staff that has led to successful outcomes across the country.
John Knox leadership decided to follow The Green House model, and plans were drawn for a seven story Health Center with 12 homes, with 12 residents each.
Twylah and David have been privileged to share the story of how the residents of John Knox Village were the driving force to bring this change to the organization. Honoring varied faith traditions, Twylah shares a request to lift the Green House staff members (and especially the Shahbazim) in prayer to honor those who have chosen to spend their lives caring for elders in this special way; those who have a desire to create a real home that truly meets the unique needs of its elders.
John Knox Village is pleased to become part of The Green House family. Twylah and David have made many new friends in this journey, and wish all Green House Homes a Happy Holiday and look forward to serving in the New Year.
By Mindy Kursban / Posted on November 21st, 2013
Compassion. Empowerment. Well-Being. Comfort. Engagement. Those are some of the ideals that describe The Green House Project. These concepts also define what therapeutic massage can provide to aging adults. It’s beautifully simple…therapeutic massage can enable older adults to extend the vitality and quality of their lives. At its core, massage gives the natural pleasure of a reassuring human touch, lowering the risk of anxiety and increasing feelings of comfort.
Massage can increase relaxation, improve circulation, relieve pain, accelerate healing from injury and illness, strengthen the immune system, and improve sleep quality. In addition, when performed by appropriately trained and licensed massage therapists, it can provide symptomatic relief from many conditions that occur with age.
For example, the Arthritis Foundation reports that therapeutic massage can decrease joint and muscle soreness, reduce muscle pain and spasms, and improve grip strength.
Incorporating regular therapeutic massage into the treatment protocol for Parkinson’s Disease can have a positive cumulative effect on managing symptoms. In fact, the National Parkinson’s Foundation reports that massage can reduce rigidity and tremors, increase daily functioning and stamina, and increase feelings of relaxation.
How can you bring massage to your community?
Therapeutic massage for older adults is a growing niche industry. Increasing numbers of senior living community administrators are exploring ways to bring a therapeutic massage program to their residents. Increasing numbers of current and likely future senior living community residents are seeking this therapy.
Family and Nursing Care began offering therapeutic massage in 2011, as a complement to our home care services and to support our vision for wellness and whole-person care. In one community we work with, interested residents sign-up each week for a short seated massage. On the day of the massage, the residents come to the massage area at their designated time. In another community, management wants to show the health and wellness impact of the massage program. They asked for volunteers who wanted to receive a 30-minute massage session each week. Residents were selected on a first-come, first-served basis. Because we are working with the same residents each week and the massages are of a longer duration, this expanded program includes an initial intake, assessment and development of massage plan, goal setting, regular massage in accordance with the plan and goals, SOAP (Subjective, Objective, Assessment, Plan) Notes, follow-up assessments, consultations with the medical team as needed, and submission of progress reports to management.
These are only two possible options. There are many variations on what a program could look like. First, identify the nature of your interest in a massage program. What value do you want to bring for your residents and for your community?
After you have identified the foundation for the program, there are many other factors to consider:
- What outcome would you need to consider the program a success?
- How many of your residents would be interested in participating in a massage program?
- Would your residents’ level of interest be enhanced by education about the benefits of massage? If so, how can education be provided?
- Is your medical team knowledgeable about the benefits of therapeutic massage? Would they be willing to refer residents for massage?
- Will your community make an investment in the success of the program? In our experience, the program will be most successful and reach the largest numbers of residents when the community foots the bill.
- Does your community have a private room that could be dedicated to massage or would the residents get a massage in their own rooms?
- Would it be important to you to have massage therapists who are trained specifically to work with older adults? Who can give your residents the option of staying fully- or partially-dressed during the massage? Who can give your residents unable to get on a massage table the option of getting their massage in a hospital bed, their regular bed, or even a wheelchair or even their scooter?
- How many hours per week or month would massage be available?
These are only a few of the questions to take into account. Consider partnering with an experienced organization to help ensure the success of your massage program.
About Family & Nursing Care
Since 1968, Family & Nursing Care has specialized in helping older adults get the most out of life. Whether it is a caregiver to help with activities of daily living, a nurse to assist with more skilled needs, or a licensed massage therapist to ease aches and pains or the symptoms of an illness, Family & Nursing Care meets each client’s individual needs. Service is provided in Maryland (Montgomery, Prince George’s, Howard and Frederick counties) and Washington, DC. Learn more at www.familynursingcare.com.
By Daniel Weinshenker / Posted on August 16th, 2013
Buy in bulk, most people say. That’s how you save. So they flock to big box stores and buy big boxes of things to get them on the cheap. Likewise, the companies that serve people buy in bulk—like fast food chains—and the ingredients are cheap and there’s not a lot of variation on the menu but it’s affordable to the people they serve. The companies make money and we save money. And this is how it goes.
And so went elder care. Large institutional facilities housing and caring for large groups of elders was seemingly the only way to make the field of elder care financially feasible—both for the entities offering it and for the seniors needing it.
Ingrid Weaver worked in a large institutional nursing home when she started as a CNA while in college.
“Hurry up, go in, take care of everyone, and get done. It was very task oriented. It was almost like every senior you cared for was a task as opposed to a person. I was taught that way…and it was discouraging,” she said. “For me and for the elders, I’m sure.”
Twenty-five years ago Ingrid took a job at Porter Hills working with elders with irreversible dementia. She discovered that Porter Hills’ care was much more progressive than her previous employer’s. Instead of focusing on what elders couldn’t do, the Porter Hills staff was encouraged to focus on what they could do.
“It was a social model instead of a medical model,” she said. “If someone couldn’t tie their shoes, we got them a pair of shoes they could put on by themselves, with Velcro.”
Still, older buildings provided challenges to making alterations that would have been able to help improve ease of care.
“We had one main kitchen and three dining rooms that had to serve 600 residents. So if we were going to say that everyone could eat whatever they wanted whenever they wanted…it posed a challenge to existing systems,” said Ingrid. “It was all centered efficiencies and what worked well for staff.”
These challenges, combined with the progressive philosophy at Porter Hills, encouraged a dialogue to begin. This dialogue helped develop a foundation for a new type of care community that would cater to smaller groups of people based on their wants and needs. The staff at Porter Hills recognized that culture change was not a one-time event; it’s a process that requires continual transformation and growth.
And that’s when The Green House Project came into view. It not only offered a way forward for the design of the physical buildings and philosophical framework of care. It also challenged the big box, large institutional financial model for care.
In the smaller Green House homes, there was no longer a need for the legacy model of staffing that was necessary in the institutional care facilities. Instead, universal caregivers are responsible for a continuum of care within the home. They do everything from cooking individual meals to housekeeping to activities support and nursing care. As a result, Porter Hills didn’t require as many administrative and managerial staff because the empowered self-managed team worked collaboratively to support the elders and problem-solve issues.
Having fewer administrative staff saved money—as much as $124,000 per year, according to Weaver. It also meant that caregivers would form tighter bonds with the elders. And that meant better care.
“We have one elder who loves being outside,” says Ingrid. “She goes out and tends to flowers in her wheelchair. Because of the design, staff can see her from the windows while still caring for others. Making sure elders are safe while still having autonomy—this is much more difficult to offer in a traditional nursing home. And just that freedom…it’s meaningful to her.”
By Tabitha Green House homes / Posted on April 29th, 2013
In May 2006, Tabitha opened Nebraska’s first—and the nation’s second—Green House® Project transforming the way care is delivered by departing from the traditional nursing home model and bringing long-term care into a home setting. We now have four Green House homes on our campus serving 45 Elders. One evening, the Green House family welcomed three newly trained shahbazim to the household during an evening punctuated with music, dancing, eating, champagne popping and a warmth that can only be felt when one is truly at home. This photo and that evening truly showed how Tabitha Green House homes offer love, family and home.
By Rachel Scher McLean / Posted on March 1st, 2013
At a recent Leading Age Luncheon, CEO of Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community (VMRC), Ron Yoder, shared a story that illustrated the power of home over institution to support those living with dementia
In 2000, VMRC had a secured Alzheimer’s neighborhood in its nursing center. The layout is semi-private rooms on both sides of a middle corridor and a sitting area at the entrance to the neighborhood. When the carpet needed to be replaced, the residents were moved to an assisted living neighborhood during the day while the workers were laying the carpet.
The assisted living neighborhood is “homelike” — private rooms and private baths surrounding common/shared spaces consisting of a dining room, living/sitting room, and residential kitchen.
The first day the residents were in the assisted living neighborhood their caregivers reported that the residents were more alert and active. At the end of the day residents asked, “can we stay here?” and not return to the Alzheimer’s neighborhood.
I remember reflecting that if a “homelike physical environment” has that profound of a life giving impact on residents with Alzheimer’s disease compared to an “institutional environment,” it creates a moral imperative to change.
Several years ago the Alzheimer’s neighborhood in the nursing center was closed. We now have three memory care neighborhoods in the assisted living community for residents with various types of dementia. Residents with dementia who require 24-hour complete living care (need assistance with all ADLs) live throughout the nursing center rather than in a dedicated neighborhood.
The Green House Model takes this concept to the next level through a real home environment, person-centered focus, and deeply knowing relationships that create an ideal space for a person with dementia to thrive. As a thought leader in the field of aging, The Green House Project recently participated in a TEDMED Great Challenges Series on the growing challenge of dementia. Through this online panel and twitter (#GreatChallenges) conversation, many innovative ideas were shared, with a focus on person-centered care, increased training for staff, and support for caregivers.
By Rachel Scher McLean / Posted on March 1st, 2013
Charlene, a nurse at White Oaks Cottages, brings her daughter in to spend time with the elders. In this video, Charlene shares two endearing stories about the joy that comes from real relationships between elders and children. You are not going to want to miss these stories, they are guaranteed to bring smiles to your day.