Green House Blog

Bill Thomas, Aging is “Life’s Most Dangerous Game”

IMG_0076In his Age of Disruption Tour, Dr. Bill Thomas promises a wide ranging discussion about society’s perspective on aging and what he calls, “life’s most dangerous game.” Nearly 300 people turned out to beautiful Nelson Hall at Elim Park Baptist Home in Cheshire, Connecticut to hear Dr. Thomas, joined by musician Nate Richardson.

As people entered, they were greeted by the sound of drumming and a blackboard with where people completed the phrase “as I age I dare to….” Everyone was encouraged inscribe their “dare” on their own personal shaker, and to contribute their own rhythm to the drumming.
Combining music, story-telling and multi-media, the performance seeks to debunk our pre-occupation and romance with the perfection of youth. As Dr. Thomas, demonstrates with a teenage picture of himself, braces and all, the reality is often not quite as rosy as the ideal. The romantic notion of youth is perpetuated with an anti-aging fantasy, which can be seen in the myriad products and services that claim to reverse the effects of aging.

Dr. Thomas proposes an alternative. Age takes things away, but it also offers new gifts. While today’s society emphasizes the losses, we can choose to see aging rather as the transcendence of youth. As we age what we’re good at changes, and we move beyond the cares and priorities that consumed us when we were younger.

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The key for a successful older life is to be able to discover “re-imagination”. Youth is about imagination and possibilities. Then people surrender their many dreams, and narrow their focus. They trade possibility for competence. As they become defined by their competence, they are afraid to try new things because, they’re afraid of looking foolish. In order to age well, we must let go of this fear, and regain some of those dreams, or find new ones.

Re-imagination is about creating opportunities to learn and grow. It’s about giving up competence for possibility. Take risks, because you never know what you might find. And taking these risks is life’s most dangerous game.

Better Together: Caring Across Generations Campaign

“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.

Are you interested in joining this movement to transform care? Visit our Support the Movement page today and learn how to take action by becoming a part of the Caring Across Generations campaign.

 

The Atlantic proclaims, “A Better Nursing Home Exists…”

Steve, demonstrating the technology, that gives him independence

“Living in a Green House is the only reason I continue to live a vital and productive life,” Steve Saling, recently told The Atlantic, “It doesn’t matter if you are an elder or disabled, people want to live with dignity and respect, make their own decisions and direct their own care.”

In her in-depth article, Alana Samuels explores the history of Leonard Florence Center for Living and The Green House Project. She describes the challenges and triumphs that come from shifting the paradigm of long term care, and unlocking the human spirit. “This is not a nursing home with residential trappings,” Saling emphasizes, “It is my home that happens to provide skilled nursing services.”

Barry Berman, CEO of Chelsea Jewish Foundation

Barry Berman, CEO of Chelsea Jewish Foundation, has found success operating Green House homes, saying that there are efficiencies that make Green Houses, in some ways, less expensive to run. Still, it is not the bottom line that is driving Mr. Berman’s desire to transform the nursing home, but rather the human component, “The whole purpose of doing the renovations is to make the nursing home into a place that people want to spend time, rather than a place that mostly focuses on meeting regulations and controlling costs.”

To read more about how The Chelsea Jewish Foundation is transforming nursing home care across their organization, read the full The Atlantic article>>

Nurse and elder interacting in a Green House home

Film Debuted at Tribeca Filmfest Raises Awareness of ALS

The Green House homes in Chelsea, MA are groundbreaking for many reasons, including having the first residence where people living with ALS can continue to live full and meaningful lives, while getting the care that they need.  These homes have incredible technology that enables the residents to control their environment and communicate with the use of high-tech computers.  Patrick O’Brian is a film producer and DeeJay who is living with ALS and his film was recently screened at the Tribeca Filmfest.  

Leonard Florence Center’s very own Patrick O’Brien debuted his award-winning documentary film, TransFatty Lives, at the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival on April 16 in New York City. The world premiere was attended by renowned film producers, actors, celebrities, politicians and VIP’s.  In addition to Patrick, Chelsea Jewish Foundation’s “celebrities” were also on hand for the festivities including, CEO, Barry Berman and famed resident and designer of The Green House home for people living with ALS, Steve Saling.  Without a doubt, it was a day to cherish.

 

patrick_NYCThis extraordinary film focuses upon living with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis; also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.) Patrick hopes the film will reach as many people as possible to help increase awareness and mobilization against ALS.

“I was officially diagnosed with ALS when I was 30 years old,” said Patrick O’Brien. “It is a fatal and incurable disease. I have chosen to do something with my illness.  As you will see, I turned the cameras on myself and began to document my journey with ALS on 35mm motion picture film. This challenge has given me a focal point for my energies, and will hopefully inspire others to keep moving through their own adversities.”

Ten years in the making, TransFatty Lives explores what it means to live, what it means to die and what is important in life. Containing no talking heads or lengthy interviews, the film relies instead on a distinct visual style all its own.

 

Two days before the festival, Patrick received a congratulatory letter from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. In the letter, The Governor cited Patrick’s incredible passion, talent, bravery and optimistic outlook. As he put it, “The screening of your film will serve as an inspiration to people worldwide who are fighting their own battles, while raising awareness for ALS.”

 

 

Poetry by an Elder: Green House homes bring hope

 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.  

Marooned

on a desert island
with only a tree and
a book
for company–
a fairy godmother
happened by–
“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
with ice!
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

helenAt 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.

 

Spring Has Sprung at the Green House Homes in Sheridan, Wyoming

The weather has warmed and melted away the white of winter.  We honor and love our elders while we welcome the new life of spring with open arms.  Spring can mean baby season around here!

 

 

 

lamb-turnedOur MDS Coordinator, Shelly Jelly, brought in two motherless day old lambs. You can see our Social Services coordinator holding them at her desk.
A Shahbaz from Whitney cottage came up on her time-off to bring her Clydesdale to meet the elders of GHL. Elders from all four cottages stood out in the sunshine to see and pet the gentle giant of a horse. elder-rubbing-nose-of-horse_cropped1
Our own Dietary Mentor, Emily, brought in her three new baby chicks of this spring.  They were a hit with their happy peeping that brought spring sounds indoors.

elder-and-baby-birdTwo brand new baby calves enjoyed the warm weather on the other side of our ranch neighbor’s fence.
walking-with-elder-in-wyomingOur elders enjoy walks outdoors with our Shahbazim, as can be see with elder Lois Brandjord and Shahbaz Itealya. They got to see the mother cows and the brand new babies.

People are even bringing their own babies into GHL.  You can see Harold Sethne from Scott cottage holding a newborn from his family.elder-and-new-baby_cropped1

It’s the energetic youth and new birth that brings such life to our Green House community.  There is so much joy to be shared when we all gather to nurture and love the babies of our spring.elder-and-staff-and-horse_cropped

We thank Lynnea for her story of Spring and the photos! Lynnea is the Guide and Educator, Green House Living for Sheridan.

 

Project Update: Morris Hall Meadows Slated to Open Late Summer

pic-two-of-Morris-Hall-Meadows2While cold temperatures and snow undoubtedly create challenges for construction crews…the Green House homes being developed in Lawrenceville, New Jersey are still set to open within the next four to five months.

Morris Hall Meadows will include six skilled nursing Green House homes.  Ten Elders will live in each home, which will include their own private bedroom and bath, a central hearth area with a fireplace, full kitchen with home cooked meals and a dining area.

The project is being developed by Morris Hall/St. Lawrence, Inc.  Morris Hall and St. Lawrence are both not-for-profit agencies sponsored by the diocese.pic-three-of-Morris-Hall-meadows1

Morris Hall consists of St. Mary’s Assisted and Residential Living and St. Joseph Skilled Nursing Center.

When the project was announced to the community, Darlene Hanley, President and CEO of Morris Hall/St. Lawrence, Inc., expressed, “The goal of the Green House Project and Morris Hall Meadow is to give options to consumers. Currently, there is only one Green House community in New Jersey, and we will be the second one in the state. We welcome the opportunity to share this unique project with the community and are pleased to offer both traditional and innovative options in nursing home care.”
pic-one-of-Morris-Hall-homesThe homes in Morris Hall Meadows will be Medicare and Medicaid approved.  Elders will have access to an array of services, further complemented by the therapy resources of St. Lawrence Rehabilitation center.

We are most excited about this project in New Jersey and look forward to the Grand Opening late this summer!

Dr. Bill Thomas, Talks to Provider Magazine about Person-Centered Care

In an exclusive interview with Provider, Dr. Thomas casts the vision of living in a world where the ageist slur, “elderly” is no longer a part of polite conversation.  He says, “Think back in memory to the last time an older person referred to themselves as ‘elderly.’ People don’t introduce themselves by saying, ‘Hi, I’m Bob’s elderly mother.’ That’s put onto them. That’s the definition of a slur.”  Dr. Bill Thomas believes that to change long term care, we need to change the larger societal attitudes toward getting old.

In pursuit of this reality, Dr. Thomas is hitting the road for the Age of Disruption Tour, “I’m going on tour again, starting in April,” [Dr. Bill Thomas] tells Provider. “I feel a responsibility to have an impact on not just long term care, but how our country views aging and how our country thinks about older people. I think that many of the issues we deal with in long term care are driven by deep, cultural misunderstandings about aging.”  Part of the tour will be an old-fashioned rap session, with Thomas sitting down with leaders, that “explores new ideas, practices, and models to transform the experience of care and caregiving,” the tour’s ad copy says.

While there have been great strides to create opportunities for elders to live a life worth living, we have a long way to go… and there is always the danger of a good idea being turned into a marketing gimic, rather than the real deal.  Take “person-centered care” for an example, “The problem with person-centered care,” Thomas says, “is that it’s possible for people to become satisfied with the name and to actually lose interest in the hard work that’s required to turn the name into a lived experience. The words are everywhere, but the meaning of the words is changing… What we really mean by person-centered care is relationship-rich care.”

In The Green House model, relationships are the cornerstone of success.  The deep knowing relationships between elders and the direct care staff facilitates a familiarity that leads to positive outcomes, including increased workflow, cost savings, and health outcomes.

Dr. Thomas has truly made an impact on the field of aging, as the reporter says, “he is a founding father of a revolution. (How many other Birkenstock-wearing gerontologists are getting shout-outs from the Senate floor?)”  As he embarks on this latest adventure, there will be new ideas shared, fires stoked, and people moved to action… bringing us ever closer to the ideal of meaningful lives for all.

To read the full article >>

Kris Angevine, Living The Green House Model

Reposted from www.stjohnsliving.org

Kris.pngWhen it comes to long-term care, Kris Angevine strongly believes smaller is better.

“It’s better for relationships with the residents and it’s better for the teams who take such good care of them,” Kris, who serves as the Guide at the Penfied Green House homes, said on a mild March day in 2015. “You get to know the residents so well. And if anything changes, you can respond immediately. This leads to a better quality of life.”

Having worked at St. John’s now for 11 years—first in dining services and for the past three years as a Green House and Eden Alternative guide, educator, and mentor—Kris also believes that residents should have as many choices and as much autonomy as possible. In her multiple roles, Kris helps develop self-managing teams that can care for Green House home elders with a minimum of supervision.

As a member of many teams in the past, Kris said it does not make sense to have a supervisor hovering over staff members who know how to do their jobs. At the Penfield Green House Homes, those staff members are called shahbazim (plural), a Persian word meaning “royal falcon.” At St. John’s, each shahbaz is a versatile, universal worker who sees to all the residents’ needs.

Eden Alternative co-creator Dr. Bill Thomas came up with the idea to apply this term. They are tasked with caring for the 20 elders who live in the two homes, which were built in 2012. Whether submitting work orders, providing care and companionship, building consensus, or providing treatment, the shahbazim, along with the nurses and an on-call doctor, do it all. The main household tasks of shopping, cooking, housekeeping, and laundry are done on a rotating basis so no one person has only one job.

The premise for the Green House model is to create a real home for elders to continue living a meaningful life and create an empowered staff. The staff’s goal is to eliminate the three “plagues of the spirit”: loneliness, helplessness, and boredom. The Penfield Homes are two of more than 170 located in 27 states, and the only community-based homes in the country.

It’s no small task to keep these houses running day after day. But through the considerable dedication and hard work of everyone involved, the Whitman and Moore homes are indeed Eden-like in both form and function. The houses are also well integrated into a quiet, multigenerational community. It takes a great deal of work, planning, and attention to detail to make it all happen, but the best people are on the job to ensure it does.

“I’ve been in the trenches my whole life,” Kris said of the work that prepared her to do this. For her part, Kris is involved in the big picture. Ultimately responsible for the Green House Homes operations, she provides the skills, tools, and resources needed to run the houses. She offers advice on problem solving and maintains relationships with the shahbazim, nurses, elders, and family members. Born in Tucson, Arizona, to a military family, Kris grew up in Titusville, Pennsylvania. Her career in the dining industry led her from North Carolina to Rochester 25 years ago. She and her husband Chris, a mechanical engineer, live in Rochester with their three cats. In addition to music and dancing, Kris has also been working in ceramics for the past year crafting hand-made bowls.

Kris also loves dogs, and assisted the elders to adopt a very friendly one named Lexi last year. After coming to consensus, Lexi came to live at Moore House last June. Together with all the other aesthetic and functional elements, Lexi’s canine companionship truly makes Moore House a home.

“It’s real life here,” Kris says. “We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, we’ve fought. It’s not sterile. It takes a lot of patience, but we work hard to build trust and keep the elders out of harm’s way.”Kris

Joint Provider Surveyor Training: Building Vital Relationships

Susan-Frazier_8924A mutual goal of providers and regulators is for elders to experience high-quality lives, enjoying choice, freedom and dignity. The Green House Project understands this, and supports dialogue and education to build strong relationships among all stakeholders. The Joint Provider Surveyor Training, recently held in Grand Rapids, Michigan, provided an opportunity to spread our message about the importance of partnership, and its necessity to achieve positive outcomes for the future of aging.

As Senior Director of The Green House Project, I joined Renee Cunningham, Director of Nursing for Kalkaska Memorial Health Center, to present the latest research on The Green House model. Renee shared her organization’s journey to adopt The Green House trademark, and the value that they believe it will bring to help them achieve their goal of opening two Green House homes in 2015.

The Green House Project partners with state regulators to understand the specific regulations of each state, and educates them about The Green House model. Since the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (OBRA) of 1987 was enacted, mandating that nursing homes “…help each resident attain or maintain the highest practicable well-being…” (CMS 1987), person-centered thinking has been inscribed in long-term care policy. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) continue to advance this agenda through regulations and interpretive guidelines that mandate person-centered approaches. It is essential to bring regulators and providers together for vital collaboration. Building those relationships at the policy and advocacy level are essential to achieving meaningful life at the individual level.