Green House Blog

Highlighting the Green House Project Team: Susan Frazier, Director

Early in Susan’s career she knew that institutional long term care was broken—she just didn’t know how to fix it. As a Director of Nursing, her facility received deficiency-free marks from surveyors, but for Susan there still was something “off”. She vividly remembers a very unhappy elder with dementia in restraints “parked” at the nurses’ station. It was for the elder’s safety and within the guidelines for best practices, but for Susan it didn’t seem right. She offered to take the upset elder for a walk outside and the immediate calm that overtook the elder made Susan recognize that the system needed to be changed. She has been on her culture change journey ever since. At the Green House Project, she was initially a Project Guide, but is now the Chief Operating Officer.

• 25 years of nursing with a concentration in gerontology and Alzheimer’s/dementia care—Director of Nursing/Geriatric Nurse Educator
• Eden Alternative board member
• Master’s degree in Aging Services, Bachelor of Science in Nursing
• Culture Change keynote speaker/presenter

Her passion for improving the quality of life for elders has been demonstrated in a variety of settings. Prior to working with The Green House Project, Susan served on the leadership team of a non-profit continuing care retirement community, where she spearheaded the organization’s transformation to culture change by assessing industry innovation and outcomes and developing strategic and educational protocols. Additionally, her experience includes leadership roles as Director of Nursing for a long-term care facility and as a Geriatric Nurse Educator providing grant-funded programs to support deinstitutionalization of community seniors. She has also worked extensively with older adults in a home care setting.
To relax, Susan enjoys playing the piano. To get energized, she heads outdoors to go hiking or rock climbing.

The Green House Project Announces: The Interactive Brochure

The Green House Project is dynamic, interactive and cutting edge—and the ways that we communicate and share our message must align with that mentality. That is why, There is an App for That!
That is right, in The App Store for IPad, search “GHP” and you will have access to this unbelievable tool. In this free app, The Green House Project invites prospective partners to learn more about an exciting alternative to traditional nursing homes. For those who are not IPad equipped, don’t worry, you can access these materials through a Flash version on our website!
The Green House model finds roots in The Eden Alternative®. In The Green House model, the environment, philosophy and organizational structure combine to address the most profound problems occurring within nursing homes—loneliness, helplessness and boredom. Living and working in a Green House home empowers both elders and direct care staff. Download the app or view it on our website to explore this evidence-based model and its proven financial, clinical and regulatory success.

In The Green House Project app:
Videos and photos highlighting the unique philosophy, environment and organizational structure of Green House homes
– Video and written testimonials from partners, elders, staff and families
– Links to expanded information on the website, including floor plans, current Green House home locations and research articles
– Links to register for an informational webinar or orientation workshop

Creating REAL Home

Home is where I keep all the things that are important to me, where I feel safe and where I can be myself.” Does that definition ring true for you?  It’s how one Shahbaz defined home during a recent Green House Peer Team Network webinar on “Creating Home”.   

Home is definitely a special place for all us, especially for the elders and shahbazim at a Green House home.  As Dr. Bill Thomas explains, “A Green House is a sanctuary for a new kind of elderhood; it is an intentional community for people seeking the worth and meaning in late life.”  But what does that really look and feel like every day?  The webinar provided a plethora of examples, and they all emphasized the importance of really knowing the elders—deep, knowing relationships.

A shahbaz from St. Martin’s in the Pines talked about the elders living with dementia in their home.  “You may not have a lot of conversation with them, but you get to know them in other ways.  When I come by them I rub their back, and they’ve gotten to know that it’s me.  If they want a backrub, they lean forward and I know that’s the sign they want their back rubbed.  They love that—we have an understanding, a relationship.”

Cooking is another very basic component in creating home, one that we all take for granted in our own homes, but one that makes a Green House home so very unique.  All elders can find something special to do in the kitchen, and our shahbaz from St. Martin’s had some ideas.

“The elders living with dementia see and remember the cracking of the eggs, the beating of the eggs, the smell of flavors being used—the mixing of all that.  That seems to bring back good things.”

“Also, the way I do the cooking, we sit around the table, 3 or 4 elders; I put all the dry ingredients in a plastic bag and their job is to mix of all that, turn the bag over and over and mix it all up.  They also love smelling all of the different flavors—they participate in the smelling of the cake when it cooking and they tell me when it’s done by the smell of it!”

As many of you know, The Eden Alternative Principles guide the philosophy and practices at the Green House homes and reciprocity is so important.  It’s the fourth principle: An elder-centered community creates opportunity to give as well as receive care.  This is the antidote to helplessness. 

The cooking that takes place in the home can be a wonderful way to practice that principle.  The shahbazim at St. Martin’s know that first hand.  “Then we bake, and make two loaves—this is friendship bread that we are baking, and we share with one of the other houses.  This gives the opportunity to share, plus they [elders] eat the other loaf at dinner that night!”

Home is also a place filled with unexpected happenings centered on what the “family” decides to do that day.  An elder on the webinar shared the events of their home and how the rhythm of their house has evolved.  She explained how they had put together a scrapbook of activities the elders enjoyed, including a number of fun pictures.  However, the book had another purpose too, “The main reason was to put the photo and name below” in an effort to help everyone remember names.  “We teach each other, we help each other.  Sometimes it’s as simple as just all watching football.  We share, we laugh, we cry and learn a lot.  The whole idea of this place is to share.  I’ve got something to share with you, and you’ve got something to share with me.  It makes life great!”   

Part of making life great at a Green House home concerns just who makes the decisions.  It’s all about the eighth Eden Alternative Principle: An elder-centered community honors its elders by de-emphasizing top-down bureaucratic authority, seeking instead to place the maximum possible decision-making authority into the hands of the elders or into the hands of those closest to them.

It’s certainly in practice in the Village of Redford.  The shahbaz shared a recent meal planning issue, “If we don’t have what they really like, they don’t have to worry about someone saying we can’t make that—we try to make it happen.  We get the elders together and we all agree if they want Chinese food…we take one day out of the week and get what they like.”

The Green House model is designed to embrace many ways to create home, because the definition of home is special and unique to each of us.  The Guide from St. Martin’s expressed her observations of building the intentional Green House community, “They develop their rhythm, their relationships, their family.  One house may be making bread and having tea—or another house has elders listening to music on the porch.  It’s been interesting to watch how that happens, and a real pleasure to be part of how that happens.  They make their own rhythm of the house.  It’s just incredible to watch.”

How we create home with the elders in a Green House can have a real impact on the community too.  The Guide from Jamie’s Place spoke of the change in language and attitudes in her community at large. “We are such a part of the community that when we speak about our elders we teach our community members that they aren’t just old people.  There is growing going on here, there are things they are interested in and we want to be part of the community.  So, there are now people in the community that use the word “elder” instead of “old people” and they are people that don’t have anything to do with the homes directly.  These members of the outside community want to share with us; they bring food, arts, and crafts.  We are so integrated into the community.”  

How incredible is that?  Creating home with elders AND changing the communities’ perception of aging!  Many thanks to all who participated on the Green House Peer Network call.  There were so many great ideas and suggestions. 

Please contact Aja Lawson via email if you have questions about receiving notices for the next webinar, her address is:

Residences at VA Danville, utilize The Green House Prototype Design Package

By Melissa Urbieta

Chicago, IL (March 1, 2012)

The Chicago office of top design and architecture firm Perkins Eastman joins with the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) in celebrating the completion of the country’s first Community Living Center (CLC) to utilize THE GREEN HOUSE® Prototype Design Package at the VA Illiana Health Care System campus in Danville, Illinois.

The CLC at Danville consists of two 7,500 sf buildings—aptly named Freedom House and Liberty House—containing ten private bedrooms with direct views to common areas, communal living areas and kitchens, and ample outdoor space, all with an aim to restore maximum function and independence while providing veteran-centered care. “Perkins Eastman has been truly honored to work with the Veterans’ Administration to design thoughtful living environments for our veterans,” says Principal Jerry Walleck AIA. “Our goal was to ensure that the CLC at Danville provides a state-of-the-art environment that supports the VA’s mission to improve the health of the men and women who have served our nation.”

The VA Illiana Health Care System CLC is the first of several VA communities either planned or under construction that utilizes THE GREEN HOUSE® Prototype Design Package, a new approach for seniors needing skilled nursing care that emphasizes de-institutionalization. The prototype was designed in 2011 by Perkins Eastman in concert with THE GREEN HOUSE® Project and NCB Capital Impact to provide a turnkey design for senior living communities at a reduced schedule and with reduced costs.

The overall goal of design is to empower more providers across the country to create communities where seniors can experience quality care in a de-institutionalized environment. A transformation in the way veteran care is delivered, Freedom House and Liberty House address the spectrum of health—physical, emotional, psychological—in their design. In adopting this community-based model of care, Freedom House and Liberty House at VA Illiana provide greater assurances of privacy and personalized environments for veterans in ways more traditional models cannot.

Green House Model and the Eden Alternative: Setting the stage for people to grow

By Judith Meyers-Thomas

When I gave birth to my first child I had no idea that it would be a lesson in empowerment. Haleigh Jane, who is just about to turn 18, was born with Otahara Syndrome. In the simplest terms, her brain will never develop past that of an infant. We were told she would never live to six months. Two and a half years later, my second daughter was born with the same condition. The doctors who had initially told us it was not a genetic condition, apologetically informed us they were wrong.

For years I accepted the opinions of the almost constant parade of doctors, therapists and counselors as they attempted to tell me what was best for my daughters. It is difficult for me to admit that I went along with many of those suggestions because I did not trust that I might actually understand more about my precious girls than they did. After all, they were the “professionals”. When I finally found the courage to stand up and say “no”, the sense of empowerment that I experienced was life altering.

Websters dictionary would have you believe that empowerment is something that is bestowed upon us. I think they are wrong. Empowerment comes from within. When you accept who you are at this moment in your life; when you can be true to yourself, you will find that the power you are looking for is right there inside of you. Look, for example, at Mother Theresa. She lived and worked within the confines of a male dominated bureaucracy that is certainly not known for empowering women and yet she followed her heart and found strength and comfort in helping those most in need. She made a difference.

In the Eden Alternative and Green House models we set the stage for people to grow. We encourage the many women (and men) who live and work there to be engaged; to be empowered. Principle 8 states:

“An Elder-centered community honors it’s Elders by de-emphasizing top-down bureaucratic authority, seeking instead to place the maximum possible decision-making authority into the hands of the Elders or the hands closest to them.”

The message is clear. The table is set. Accept where you are in life. Find joy in the people who surround you and you will find the strength to do what needs to be done. The power you are looking for is right there inside you!

“Anything you want to ask a teacher, ask yourself and wait for the answer in silence.” – Byron Katie –

A Theatre Metaphor for The Green House model

By Ann Wagle, Illiana VA, Danville, IL

As I was thinking about The Green House Model of care relative to the Clinical Support Team (CST), the professions who support the wellness of the elder in partnership with the self managed work team, I was taken back to a recent experience in community theatre where my role in a production of “Hello Dolly” was that of pianist.

As I accompanied, I felt supportive of the cast, yet realizing that my goal was to be “invisible” while facilitating life and character to the music. If a cast member stumbled or forgot their line or musical note, I would cue them and offer additional support until they regained their place in the musical. If they increased the tempo, or took unexpected liberties with the music, my role was to follow them as they led the way through the story of the musical. Of course there are many individuals who are also backstage contributing to the success of the cast. There are those who stand at the edge of the stage providing the necessary prop just as the actor walks on stage. And where would we be without the light and sound folks who assure that those on stage can be heard and seen?

The CST in The Green House Model of care has a similar function to that of the stage/musical pit crew of a theater production. We must be always supportive to the elders so that their voice can be heard and their meaningful lives seen and respected by family and friends. We are to add spirit and hope to their days and provide them the ability to interdependently create the most of each day. The elder is the one in the spotlight, and those who support them, although invisible, are critical to the success of the lives of each elder. In addition, the supporting team finds tremendous gratification in enhancing, sustaining, and providing nurturing hope to the elder.