New York Times Highlights The Green House model and Trend toward Small Nursing Homes

By / Posted on November 23rd, 2015

“This is my home,” said Kay Larmor, an elder who currently lives at Porter Hills Green House homes. “And I feel cared for.”

kay larimor

The New York Times recently explored the movement toward smaller nursing home residences, highlighting The Green House Project as the premiere example of this trend, “Green House 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.

“This is the way that elders want to be cared for,” said Audrey Weiner, chief executive of Jewish Home Lifecare, who will open 22 Green House homes in Manhattan.  Currently there are 185 Green House homes operating 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.  There is still much work to do to make Green House homes an option for elders in every community.  Whether you are an advocate, provider or developer, visit www.thegreenhouseproject.org to learn how you can get involved.

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Highlighting Shahbaz, Darlene Scott at Porter Hills Green House homes

By / Posted on May 13th, 2015

Empathy, compassion, honor and respect are just a few of the qualities required in those working with elders in THE GREEN HOUSE® homes. These qualities are extremely evident in Darlene Scott, a Shahbaz at the Porter Hills Green House homes in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

2Darlene has worked at Porter Hills since 1998 when she was hired as a certified nursing assistant in the Health and Rehab Center. After a short period of time, she was promoted to Unit Clerk and continued to prove she had the personality and skills needed to build strong and trusting relationships with residents. This ability to connect with those she served opened the door to a position as an activity coordinator.

While in this new role, Darlene took advantage of many educational opportunities to develop and hone her skills. This included becoming a Certified Eden Associate1

When Porter Hills decided to build two Green House® homes, Darlene was encouraged to consider working as a Shahbaz. “When I was presented with the opportunity to be a part of Green House® homes I thought, this is it, this is living out everything I have been trained to do. I had retained my CNA license which meant I qualified, so I decided to pursue this role that embodied my passion for elders.”

Darlene has worked as a Shahbaz since September of 2009 and enjoys the person-centered approach and the strong relationships developed. She has seen first-hand the impact that this unique approach to skilled care has on elders in the home.

“We had an elder who moved in with late stage dementia. She was high acuity, didn’t walk or talk, and was total care. Her son brought her here and told us that the doctor had said she had 6 months to a year left to live. The son wanted his mom to have the best care possible and he knew that it would be through the Green House® homes at Porter Hills. His mother had already been receiving care but he wanted her to have the ‘best of the best’. She moved in and initially didn’t talk and needed to be coaxed to eat. One day, I was leading a time of discussion and questions and asked about favorite colors. As we were going around the room hearing each elders’ answer, she raised her head and said, ‘my favorite color is yellow’. After that day she began to feed herself again and communicate. To me that signified living because with a lot of elderly people, eating is the last thing they have control of. Not eating can be their way of saying ‘I’m done’. For her to show that she was going to feed herself and was going to live again was a defining moment for me. I realized in that moment, that the concept of the Green House homes was not just a theory. This works, this is where people want to come to continue living no matter what stage of life they are at.”

3Darlene’s primary role in the home is to protect, sustain, and nurture the elders living there by providing assistance with activities of daily living and meeting other needs as required. “We are given the time and atmosphere to develop relationships with the elders and their families. It’s a wonderful place to work. This is a great community and Porter Hills is a great organization. Having The Green House homes and supporting them as a business, Porter Hills shows that we are here for elders, we are here for the geriatric population, and we are here to provide them with the best services and the best life that they can live.”

The rewards are not only felt by the elders in the community. “When you walk out of the door, despite the ups and downs, you know that you have made a difference. These elders could be living anywhere and not getting the care and relationships that they have here. But, they are HERE and we can give them that. It’s very rewarding.”


Go Small and Go Home — Ingrid Weaver and the Porter Hills Green House Project

By / Posted on August 16th, 2013

Ingrid Weaver, CEO, Porter Hills

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.”


Elders Rule: Really

By / Posted on October 18th, 2012

It is not a story until it is told.

Each elder is rich in life stories just waiting to be heard.  Three elders from Porter Hills Green House homes came and shared their stories at the 5th Annual Green House Meeting and Celebration in early September at the Amway Grand in Grand Rapids, MI.  Elders, Ota Champaign, Betty Hechman, and Shirley Farley agreed to talk about their current lives in the homes.  And I hoped to hear the rich nuances of Green House life.  Indeed they shared the joys of reading books in real privacy in their own bedroom.  And knowing staff and other elders deeply and with real affection is a meaningful part of each day.  Ota spends almost unlimited time in the garden,  right now getting the garden ready for winter…

But almost immediately the conversation moved to the stories of their lives, to the experiences  and adventures of lives well lived.  Educators all, memories of teaching Macbeth to high school students in Detroit,  traveling across the country and finding teaching positions to support deep wanderlust,  or working in post-war Tokyo for General MacArthur were the adventures of these women’s lives.   I am honored they agreed to share their journeys with all of us.

Thank you Ota Champaign, Betty Hechman and Shirley Farley!


Video streaming by Ustream


Porter Hills Green House homes awarded 2012 Goodwill Industries Power of Work Innovator of the Year

By / Posted on September 19th, 2012

Porter Hills Green House® Homes is honored to be awarded the 2012 Goodwill Industries Power of Work Innovator of the Year Award. Porter Hills has partnered with Goodwill Industries for 15 years to provide individuals with Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) training. When the Green House® Homes opened three years ago, Sue Kinney the CNA Program Manager and Instructor approached Cheryl VanBemden, Guide, about offering clinical training opportunities in the GHH. Sue believed exposing students to the traditional nursing home model and the Green House® Homes would provide greater opportunities for success to both students of Goodwill and Porter Hills. Porter Hills has hired 12 Goodwill graduates and continues to employ 11 of the individuals. Greg Booth is one of the graduates of Goodwill Industries. Greg exemplifies the character of individuals we desire to employ. He made a decision to change his career path and utilize the training program through Goodwill because of the support provided. Greg has been employed at Porter Hills for just over a year, and it has truly been a rewarding relationship for everyone involved. We are thankful to have partners like Goodwill to assist in giving back to our community and helping others succeed.


The 'Porter Hills Singers' Get To Know Us

By / Posted on September 14th, 2012

This year’s Annual Meeting and Celebration was filled with many celebrations and growing together as we learned to create true meaningful life and engagement.  This year we were incredibly fortunate to be graced with the beautiful music of The Porter Hills Singers.  This incredibly talented group of elders sang us familiar tunes that really got the crowd engaged by encouraging us all to sing along!  We were all left with smiles on our faces and music in our ears that continued throughout the rest of the Annual Meeting and Celebration.  Thank you Porter Hills Singers!

Video streaming by Ustream


The ‘Porter Hills Singers’ Get To Know Us

By / Posted on September 14th, 2012

This year’s Annual Meeting and Celebration was filled with many celebrations and growing together as we learned to create true meaningful life and engagement.  This year we were incredibly fortunate to be graced with the beautiful music of The Porter Hills Singers.  This incredibly talented group of elders sang us familiar tunes that really got the crowd engaged by encouraging us all to sing along!  We were all left with smiles on our faces and music in our ears that continued throughout the rest of the Annual Meeting and Celebration.  Thank you Porter Hills Singers!

Video streaming by Ustream


The 5th Annual Green House Meeting and Celebration, a huge success!

By / Posted on September 12th, 2012

“Meaningful Life, Meaningful Engagement” was a most appropriate theme this year for the 5th Annual Green House Meeting and Celebration! Over 160 people representing Green House home adopters from Alaska to Florida spent three days learning, laughing, building relationships, sharing stories and most importantly challenging conventional ways of thinking about elders!

The meeting kicked off to a great start with pre-conference sessions in the critical areas of coaching leadership, reframing activities and leisure, and equipping the Director of Nursing for success in the model. These intensives took important roles and concepts to the next level.

An impassioned keynote by Green House model founder, Dr. Bill Thomas, urged attendees on the opening day of the conference to fill their Green House homes with stories, “a story is not a story until you tell it”. A house is not a home without a story he explained, and this includes the stories of all of the elders who live there and the people who work in the home.

Storytelling became a constant throughout the conference with many venues for elders, Shahbazim, Guides, CEOs, Nurses, Social Workers and Activity Professionals to share their experiences, challenges, and successes with each other.

A highlight of the conference was the involvement of Porter Hills, The Green House project in Grand Rapids, MI. Ingrid Weaver, CEO and family member, Carl Eschels welcomed attendees to the conference, and invited attendees to visit their homes over the course of the meeting. Elders from Porter Hills served on an elder panel to share their experience of living in a Green House home, and wisdom about life. Also, Elders of the Porter Hills singers graced us with beautiful music and entertainment. We are lucky to have four Green House projects in Michigan, and through beautiful photos, and great attendance, they added insights to every aspect of the meeting.

New tools such as The Green House Business Case, were introduced at the meeting. Concurrent sessions addressing the diverse interests and needs of the attendees spanned the two day meeting. There were Green House specific sessions about team building, marketing, utilizing data, palliative care, continence care, and other important topics. Information to create successful development as well as sustainability of the model was shared and discussed. An exciting feature is that many sessions were livestreamed and recorded, expanding the reach of these valuable tools and education.

Teepa Snow, a renowned expert in dementia care, shared her energy and expertise with the meeting through interactive sessions and a keynote. These sessions equipped attendees with new ways of being with and learning from people living with dementia. Many people had experiences that they will never forget, as Teepa explained the physical and cognitive changes that a person living with dementia goes through, and how that impacts the ways we can engage effectively.

After a whirlwind of fun, learning, stories and relationship building, The Green House attendees returned to their organizations around the country to share their knowledge and new connections. Building a community of passionate people who are committed to making life better for elders, and those who work closest with them—that is what The Green House Project is all about- the Annual Meeting and Celebration was a joyful time to come together and celebrate how far we have come, and to combine our forces to achieve what is yet to be accomplished.


Michigan NPR Affiliate, WGVU, Interviews Dr. Bill Thomas and Porter Hills at GH Annual Meeting

By / Posted on September 9th, 2012

On September 7, 2012, WGVU a local NPR affiliate in Michigan interviewed Dr. Bill Thomas, and Porter Hills CEO, Ingrid Weaver, about The Green House Project. They discuss how the model transforms the philosophy, organizational design and environment of traditional long term care, radically shifting the paradigm of aging! Additionally, this interview highlights the power of bringing together providers from around the country to celebrate and learn from each other. Porter Hills is a wonderful host, and a great example of what it means to LIVE The Green House brand and mission.  It can be different!!

Listen here:

http://www.wgvu.org/wgvunews/audio/fplayer1.cfm?styid=18041