The Green House Project showed up in a big way this year at the Pioneer Network annual conference in Denver, Colo., where senior leaders presented three breakout sessions and a tour of the local Green House homes was sold out.
Green House Senior Director Susan Ryan teamed up with Lisa Czolowski, CEO at Hover Community (which recently broke ground in Longmont, Colo.), and Jennifer Vecchi, principal at Vecchi & Associates, to present on transforming the looming workforce crisis into an opportunity for career enhancement. This subject was especially relevant in light of the shrinking number of qualified workers to fill healthcare positions.
Green House Project Guide, Claire Lucas shared her knowledge on The Green House Project’s success in utilizing Sages—volunteers who act as coaches and advisors for Shahbazim. As leaders across the country grapple with staff retention, Lucas suggested that this model of using volunteers to support staff transcends the Green House model and can be utilized successfully in any healthcare organization.
Debbie Wiegand and Rob Simonetti, design director at SWBR, a design and architecture firm, spoke about the benefits of small-house architecture and design, sharing 15 years of experience.
In addition, Pioneer Network attendees participated in an onsite visit to the Green House Homes at Mirasol in Loveland, Colo. The sold-out tour gave attendees the opportunity to gain firsthand experience in how Green House homes can make a difference in the lives of its elders and staff.
Being seen goes deeper than recognizing the visible attributes of a person. When a person is truly seen their inner complexities shine and all labels associated with them (such as Alzheimer’s disease) are shed. Their preferences in everyday life are understood and their uniqueness is honored.
This was the message that Susan Ryan, The Green House Project senior director, brought to the stage at the 33rd International Conference of Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI), held July 26-29th in Chicago, Ill. Ryan delivered a keynote presentation and participated in a panel discussion with the goal of ‘power washing’ conventional thinking in today’s dementia care.
The Alzheimer’s Disease International Conference is the the longest running and one of the largest international conferences on dementia, attracting delegates from around the world. Ryan was among a range of international expert speakers, making up a unique program that enables participants to learn about the latest advances in the prevention, diagnosis, treatment, care and management of dementia.
The concept of being seen (#SeeMe) applies especially to a large percentage of people living in long-term care settings, who are defined by their diagnosis of dementia. Their diagnosis assigns them a label that emphasizes what they can’t do and what’s been lost. Ryan’s message was a call to destigmatize and humanize those living with dementia, in order to see the whole person first.
To see this in action, Ryan encouraged the audience to take a deeper look at how the symptoms of dementia are presented to the outside world. She noted that the Behavioral and Psychological Symptoms of Dementia (BPSD) is a term used to describe the following “symptoms” that occur in people with dementia: agitation, aberrant motor behavior, anxiety, elation, irritability, depression, apathy, disinhibition, delusions, hallucinations, and sleep or appetite changes. According to a 2012 study in the Frontiers of Neurology, about 90 percent of people with dementia have BPSD. Ryan noted that while this finding is not surprising, it is presented in a way that categorizes people with dementia even further.
Instead of following common thinking, Ryan said, what if instead the finding was that 90 percent of people living with dementia will find themselves in a situation where their well-being is not adequately supported? Attendees were encouraged to take it a step further and think through how this revolutionary way of thinking would change the way that providers and other stakeholders “#SeeMe.”
The good news is that this is already happening, Ryan noted. The Green House Project has developed Best Life, a memory care program that is built on the initiative’s core values of Meaningful Life, Empowered staff, and Real Home. Best Life is a process to transform the paradigm and defy the stigmas associated with dementia, she explained.
Ryan concluded by imploring her international audience to “lead the way, address the stigma surrounding dementia, and support caregivers with the skills to see each elder as a unique individual, and to connect them to a meaningful life.”
St. John’s recently announced that Nate Sweeney joined its team as vice president of skilled services. Sweeney is bringing 17 years of experience in the health care industry, with nearly a decade spent in long-term care.
Sweeney will lead St. John’s skilled nursing operations and focus on developing a nonmedical model of long-term care through advancement of organization directors, processes and culture. He will be responsible for supervising and developing the clinical and administrative businesses of skilled services including Penfield’s Green House Homes, St. John’s main campus of 400 residents and its medical-day program.
“We’re confident Nate’s track record for strong leadership, experience, innovation and passion is a great match for our organization and team,” St. John’s President and CEO Charlie Runyon said. “Under Nate’s leadership, St. John’s will continue to advance its mission and evolve our services to provide the highest quality of care for our residents.“
Sweeney has extensive experience in the health care industry, specifically with exploring and operationalizing new models of care. Most recently, he served as executive director of the LGBT Health Resource Center of Chase Brexton Health Care in Baltimore. There he spearheaded the development of a new division in the organization that focused on resource development for the community, training and education for medical and social service providers and direct community programming.
Prior, Sweeney spent five years with the Catholic Charities of Baltimore where he drove two major changes for the organization. First, he worked with its nursing home, The Neighborhoods at St. Elizabeth, to change the culture of long-term care from pure medical to one focused on its residents. Next, he led the effort for the licensing and opening of The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Green House Residence at Stadium Place, a program of Catholic Charities and a Green House Home.
Sweeney earned his master’s degree in management of aging services from the University of Maryland Baltimore Country and his Bachelor of Arts in education from University of Illinois. Outside of the office, he serves on the LGBT Aging Issues Network Council for the American Society on Aging. Sweeney resides in Rochester.