Green House Blog

Celebrating Mary Valentine: Green House Life through her Granddaughter’s Eyes

Contribution by Ann Frohman, granddaughter of Mary Valentine

Mary Valentine was a tiny, elegant red-headed woman who surrounded herself with beauty.  She was a lady of fashion and style. She loved the opera, flowers, poetry, French Impressionist art, the warmth of a home surrounded by family and friends.  She was humble and appreciative of all life had given her, an eternal optimist, never sad or discouraged.  She made others at ease.  She was the nicest person I have ever known.

Mary, a register nurse, was married to Lyn Valentine, a medical doctor. He preceded her in death by some thirty years. After his death Mary worked at a nursing home.  Fiercely independent, she worked until she was seventy years old. By the time she entered a nursing home in her mid 90’s, she was well aware of what was in store.

When Mary entered the nursing home she was partially blind and very hard of hearing. Yet, her fragile body denied her age as she would speed around the halls and outside with a red walker leading the way.  She was social. Her mind and spirit were sharp and she enjoyed people.  Still, the nursing home was not where she wanted to be.

One time on a visit, Mary was sitting on her bed doing leg lifts.  At 97 years old, I asked why the effort?  She said she needed to keep her strength up to walk. This made sense as she had experienced several falls while there.  Surprisingly, she confided that she intended to get out of the nursing home and she knew she wouldn’t if she was unable to walk. 

As days went by, we watched the light that had shined so brightly all her life began to dim. She quit her leg lifts.  She spent much of her time sleeping because there was nowhere to go.  Fewer friends visited.  My daughter played violin in the hallway as there was no place in her room.  There was no piano for my other daughter. We were always in the hallway. Finally, I couldn’t take it.  I complained to management, not about her care, which was good, but about the facility design and nonsense rules.

I later learned that my complaint was a watershed moment.  The nursing home wanted to do more and be more.  When Mary was 98 years of age, she did in fact walk out of the nursing home- she moved across the street into the Green House.

Mary Valentine celebrating her 100th birthday

It was amazing how suddenly, her life mattered again.  Mary picked out colors to paint her room. She selected furniture and was excited to have a small table with two chairs, lace table cloth, a tea set and photo album and pictures displayed. The French Impressionist art returned.  She had her own closet and wanted nice clothes. After all, she planned for visitors who came from all over the country not just locally.  She really enjoyed sleeping in and still having breakfast, sitting by the fireplace and having meals at a large, beautiful table while chatting with the shahbazim. We visited often and strolled through the neighborhood.  My mother brought her dog all the time.  My daughter played violin for all. We spent Christmas day there two years in a row with violin, serving prime rib (from a blender) and laughter. It was magical. Mary smiled, and laughed.  She bragged on the violinist.

Our family got to know Thomas and Monica, her shahbazim. My grandmother told me she felt bad that Thomas’s dog always fancied her over the others. (Thomas thought that was odd as yes the dog loved her but he said Mary wouldn’t ever let the dog leave her lap!)  Monica once took a dress home to iron so that Mary would not be wrinkled. Every night she donned a soft floral gown and was tucked into bed. The year of 2006 belonged to Mary. Mary celebrated her 100th birthday with a margarita and cigarette on the porch of the home with family and friends.  My mother too connected with the Green House, the shahbazim, and the elders in a deeply almost spiritual way.  When Mary passed on, we grieved with the elders and shahbazim. 

We continued to visit the Green House until all the elders we knew passed on. My mother was attached to this home.  There was a memorial event in honor of Mary the next year with a statue in the garden at that Green House bearing a likeness of my mother’s dog.  The Green House enabled Mary to live some of the happiest days of her life. These also some of the happiest days of my life and that of my mother, as we knew that Grandmother was cared for — deeply cared for.

Special thanks to Ann Frohman and her family for continuing to keep Mary’s light shining bright!

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.

Revolutionizing Environment and Transforming Mindset of Long Term Care

    Sarah Hoffman, Shahbaz, Lebanon Valley Brethran Home, Palmyra, PA

Having worked in long term care for the past 12 years, I’ve seen my share of the good, the bad and the ugly. I’ve also had the privilege of working in the Green Houses in Palmyra, PA for the past four years, and truly feel this is how long term care should have been modeled all along. While the environment is a vast improvement to traditional nursing homes and fosters more opportunities for elders to be more active and independent than they could in a traditional setting, that is only one side of the coin. I think what sets the Green House model apart is the deep rooted mission and passion that all staff share to let elders rule. Life doesn’t stop simply because one requires skilled nursing services, and all staff in Green Houses, from the shahbaz (caregiver), to the nurse, to the administration/support team undergo training to recognize this and empower the elders entrusted to our care to thrive and live life to the fullest despite whatever medical needs they have. Instead of having to conform to a schedule built around staff efficiency and convenience, elders in Green Houses truly get to live life on their terms and set their personal routines for each day based on their preferences and needs. As staff, we get to know our elders far better than we ever could in a traditional setting…we truly are family. Because we have more time to spend with the elders, we are able to deeply learn about the entire person and the rich lives they’ve led through the stories they and their families share. This allows us to help our elders create meaningful daily routines and engagement opportunities with not only staff, their families and each other, but their community as well. The Green House model isn’t only revolutionizing environment, it is transforming the mindset of long term care by putting the focus back on the elder, not the diagnosis (regardless of how severe or advanced it may be). There is a better way, and I’m honored to witness elders living it daily.

Laurie Mante

Vice President, Residential Services Division
The Eddy/Northeast Health

We were a very early adopter of the Green House model. I feel the
Green House Project was very beneficial to our project, although now their
tools are much more sophisticated and comprehensive. Even with almost three years of operations under our belt, our relationship with the national
team continues to provide value in benchmarking our quality outcomes,
sharing best practices, and networking with other Green House projects, and continuing to research what works best and what areas we need to look
at doing things differently.

Continue reading “Laurie Mante”

Joyce Ebmeier

Strategic Planning
Tabitha Health Care Services

It has been Tabitha’s great fortune to have the NCB Capital Impact team
working with us starting in 2004 as we prepared to open our first Green
House Home in Nebraska. At that time, we all had a vision and shared a
passion for what this change could mean to Elders and caregivers. Up to
that point, we had tried to change, but the change was incremental and
seemed pulled back by the grip of institutional medical models. It was
the deep and knowledgeable resources of the NCB team that moved our work

Continue reading “Joyce Ebmeier”

Brenda Anderson

Director of Development
Legacy Village

“The Green House model has given us the framework to create a workplace where our staff feels empowered and they feel ownership of the home as well as the outcome of the care they provide. In the Green House home, the elders are doing what they want to do and have so much self determination, and as a result, they have a wonderful quality of life.”

Randell Stoll

Mt. San Antonio Gardens

“We have been able to move forward with the development of our Green House project much faster and avoid costly mistakes with the assistance of our Green House Guide. The Green House Project has the expertise to help us through the planning process and overcome hurdles we wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. “

John Ponthie

Summit Health Resources

“Any number of people can design or build the architecture but that doesn’t bring about the revolutionary change in culture that The Green House Project provides. For us to be able to leverage the successes and failures of so many other adopters is invaluable. The Green House Project has the expertise and structure to help manage our process in a manner that gives our project the highest possibility of success. “

Pat Johns

Daughter-in-law of Blenda Johns, Elder
Boersma Cottage, Resthaven Care Center

“To have my mother-in-law here has been just a great sense of relief. And it helps her have more of a peace of mind also because they are so close to her and so caring. And she doesn’t have to be afraid anymore like she was in her own home. And if I’m not here, at least, you know, she’s okay. Knowing that the next best thing is right on the other side of the door. “

Zoe Holland

Daughter of Mary Valentine, Elder
The Martin House, Tabitha Health Care Services

“The Shahbazim were like family to my mother. They were like her own children. They arrived in the morning, they went in for a hug, they went off their shift, before they left they went in for a hug, they were so sweet and tender and gentle and happy and she gave that back to them… it was contagious. “