Green House Blog

NPR Features The Green House Project: 'What Comes Next for Elder Care?'

Dr. Bill Thomas, the visionary who created The Green House model after realizing that his Harvard medical education didn’t give him the tools to treat loneliness, helplessness and boredom,  has spent his life trying to answer the question, “What comes next?”  With more than 1 million Americans living in nursing homes that were built in the 1960s and 1970s the time is ripe to consider a “shift from large institutional nursing homes to small and more friendly [homes]”.

This summer,  NPR reporter, Ina Jaffe (@InaJaffeNPR), spent some time at The Green House Residences of Stadium Place, the first Green House project in Maryland, which serves predominantly low income elders.  During her visit, Ms. Jaffe observed that, “You can hear the sounds and smell the aromas coming from an open kitchen that looks like it belongs in a big suburban house”.

Mealtime in a Green House home is a special time, where you can really feel the deep relationships between the versatile direct care workers and the elders.  It is a time to come together as a community.  “We cook for them.  We do daily activities with them. We spend a lot of quality time with our elders.” says Tumarka Wilson, one of the direct care team members in the home.  Ms. Wilson has a base education as a certified nursing assistant and received 128 hours of additional education from The Green House Project to gain the skills she needs  to manage The Green House home.

The Green House Project is currently open and operating in 24 states around the country. This fall, when Green House homes open in Florida, half of the country will have an option to bring their elders meaningful life and real home while receiving long term care in a Green House Home.  With cost neutral operations, this model has the potential to spread quickly, and will eventually be an option in every community.

The Green House Project is a program of NCB Captital Impact and receives funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Listen to the full NPR radio segment >>

Learn more about The Green House Model >>

 

The Homes that Sparked a Revolution

The 10 year celebration of The Traceway Green House homes in Tupelo, MS, is this Sunday (Follow us #Tupelo10), and The Daily Journal of Northeast Mississippi published an article to tell their robust story. The Tupelo story has had a ripple effect to touch thousands of people over the last decade, “Conceived as a way to deliver skilled nursing care on a human scale that empowered elders and their caregivers, Traceway was the first place in the nation to take the model to reality.”

Traceway is the project that sparked a revolution of a new way to deliver long term care. Currently 32 states have Green House homes open or in development, and that number continues to grow. Nearly everyone, from providers to consumers to policy makers know about The Green House model, and the impact that it can have for elders in their community, “In the Green House environment, there are more relationships,” said Jerry South, executive director for Traceway Retirement Community. “You don’t see those in a traditional nursing home environment.”

People have been impacted by the Tupelo story around the world, and in states as far away as Alaska.  Patty Foldager is the guide for the Seward Mountain Haven Green House homes. When she was learning about The Green House model, she remembers being blown away at the calm way a Shahbaz fixed an egg for a late-riser and then shared an orange with another elder. “This looks nothing like a long-term care center,” she remembers thinking during her visit.

Indeed, this is more than an incremental change, “It’s not just a fresh coat of paint,” said Susan Frazier, the national Green House Project, chief operating officer. “We’re going to change the way folks will age in long-term care in America.”

To read the full article, click here.  Follow us on Twitter this Sunday, #Tupelo10 for live updates of the 10th anniversary block party in Tupelo, MS

Highlighting THE GREEN HOUSE® Project Team: Marla DeVries

Being an advocate for others is what Marla truly enjoys.  In fact, most of her professional career has been in roles where it has been her responsibility to make sure the voices of others are being heard.  Elders have been her focus for the last 20 years.

Marla began her journey in Michigan as a Long Term Care Ombudsman for a nonprofit group called Citizens for Better Care.  In her position she would visit with Elders to make sure they understood their rights, conducted education sessions for Skilled Nursing Home staff and participated in family and Elder councils.  It was during this time that Marla heard a lecture by Eden Alternative and Green House founder, Dr. Bill Thomas, and within months the Ombudsman program partnered with the Eden Alternative.  Marla became an Eden Specialist instructing her colleagues on the principles of the Eden Alternative.  She implemented a Western Michigan Eden Support group for long term care communities. 

Training and educating others about Elders became a passion for Marla.  In Michigan over 2,500 participants learned about the Eden Alternative through her training programs.  She developed educational materials and learning sessions for Area Agencies on Aging staff in Michigan and became a sought after speaker for long term care conferences.

For the past 5 years, Marla has focused all of her attention on culture change. Most recently she led the management of culture change work teams across five care communities in Utah employing 400 staff positions.

Marla is now sharing her skills and knowledge about Elders and culture change in THE GREEN HOUSE ® Project as a Project Guide.

  • 20 years of experience in aging services—with a passion for culture change  
  • Recipient of the Eden Alternative 2010 Leadership Award
  • Initiated curricula development for state-wide adult abuse and neglect prevention training and train the trainer sessions reaching over 7000 direct care staff in Michigan
  • Eden Educator authorized to conduct Certified Eden Associate training, Eden leadership training, Eden at Home trainer certification, and Eden Alternative Neighborhood Guide workshops.
  • Speaker/Presenter for numerous Utah Healthcare conferences

 Marla thoroughly enjoys the outdoors, especially hiking on a good trail…whether in the sun or snow!  Marla and her husband live in Utah and have 3 children.

Dr. Bill Thomas to deliver keynote speech at 5th Annual Green House Annual Meeting and Celebration

Dr. Bill Thomas, creator of The Green House model, is a fountain of inspiration and vision for innovations in aging.  At last year’s Green House Annual Meeting and Celebration, Dr. Thomas challenged the group to examine their circle of compassion.  He pontificated that all people are surrounded by a circle of compassion that defines their relationships with those around them, “And the key ingredient to building a happy and vibrant Green House home is the ability of those in it to significantly grow their personal circle of compassion.”

Dr. Bill Thomas will provide the opening keynote speech of The 5th Annual Green House Meeting and Celebration (#GHP12) on the topic of Meaningful Life and Engagement. Certified Green House organizations, click here to register to attend!  This session will also be livestreamed (September 6 @ 8:30-10:30a ET) on The Green House Blog.  Looking forward to a stimulating session!   

A Special Position in Green House Homes: The Sage

“The Sage occupies a honored place in a Green House home,” that is how Dr. Bill Thomas, the founder of The Green House Project®, describes the importance of this volunteer position in each home.  

According to Dr. Thomas they occupy such an honored place in the home because the Sage is concerned that everyone in the house have the best possible life.  “The Sage is an advocate for the well-being of the house”.  The Green House model depends on the Sage to be “a person of influence” says Dr. Thomas.  He is quick to point out that this volunteer is not someone that possesses technical expertise, but someone who can help others get along.   The Sage will see, hear, touch and be thinking about the life of the house, the rhythm of the home for the elders and the staff.

What person would possess such abilities?  Dr. Thomas explains that you are “looking for people who have had a lifetime of experience helping small groups of people work effectively”. He says it could be an elementary teacher, a small business leader, or a retired minister.

A Sage from St. Martin’s in the Pines in Birmingham, Alabama thoroughly enjoys this volunteer position.  She cautions though that it does take time to build relationships with the elders, Shahbazim, and other staff members.  “It takes time to learn and listen”.  “I try to be influential”.

The success of the Sage is critical to the success of the Green House home according to Dr. Thomas.  While he explains that you can operate without one, you will prefer to operate with one, “It’s the cherry on the top, it’s the secret sauce”.

What do you think about the role of the Sage?  Let us know!

Stadium Place Manifests Hope for Low and Moderate Income Elders

U3_Green-House-Stadium-Place-Watercolor-not-on-sheet_1000x800-428x320“We used to have home plate,” Baltimore City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke told the crowd at Thursday’s opening ceremonies of The Green House Residences of Stadium Place . “Now we have home sweet home.”
The Grand Opening of Stadium Place, built on the site of Memorial Stadium, had all the festivities of opening day at the ballpark, complete with hot dogs, and a ceremonial first pitch thrown out by Dr. Bill Thomas and elder, Shirley Dickens. It was a wonderful culmination to a long and winding journey with strong partners. The Green House Project is built on relationships, and this project, the first in Maryland, highlighted that core value. GEDCO’s steadfast vision partnered with NCBCI and RWJF’s creative and innovative financing to create a home where Catholic Charities, with a long history of compassionate care, could create real home, in the community, for the community!Stadium-Place-1

In addition to the Oriole Bird, the media were present to document this moment that propels Baltimore to the forefront of providing cutting edge services for low income elders. The Baltimore Sun covered the Stadium Place grand opening with a great story about the elders and background on the project. A couple TV stations attended the festivities and WBAL Channel 11 broadcast this excellent story featuring Stadium Place’s administrator Nate Sweeney GEDCO Executive Director, Mitch Posner and others. A blogger from Kaiser Health News also attended the gala and wrote a post touting the research proving The Green House Project model. WYPR 88.1 FM’s Maryland Morning with Sheilah Kast interviewd Dr. Bill Thomas about the urgent need to provide long term care to underserved populations he was joined by Brown University assistant professor Zhanlian Feng, who has led ground-breaking research about the changing ethnic and racial make-up of nursing home residents.
Stadium-Place-4-478x198This event was one of those beautiful days, where everyone in attendance is filled with hope, and happiness.

What’s your favorite culture change book?

Yesterday the world got its first opportunity to own Bill Thomas’ Tribes of Eden. As we celebrate a new book that’s been inspired by Culture Change advocates, we had to wonder – what book has inspired you? What text would you recommend to others to provide different insight into the world of aging? Dementia? Person directed care? What books have led to lively discussions? Tell us about your good reads so we can share those titles and genres with our Green House network of readers.

 

What's your favorite culture change book?

Yesterday the world got its first opportunity to own Bill Thomas’ Tribes of Eden. As we celebrate a new book that’s been inspired by Culture Change advocates, we had to wonder – what book has inspired you? What text would you recommend to others to provide different insight into the world of aging? Dementia? Person directed care? What books have led to lively discussions? Tell us about your good reads so we can share those titles and genres with our Green House network of readers.

 

Clinical Support Spotlight: April is Occupational Therapy Month

What do National Peach Cobbler Day, Thomas Jefferson’s birthday, and Occupational Therapy (OT) Month have in common? If you guessed that they’re all celebrated in April- you’ve got it! While delicious cobbler and our former president are by no means insignificant, The Green House® Project is particularly eager to acknowledge the OT profession and the dozens of clinical support team members that support growth and meaningful lives for Green House elders each day of the year.

In What Are Old People For?, Dr. Bill Thomas identifies habilitation as “the effort to bring forth existing but latent potential within a person or group of people. It is distinguished from rehabilitation– a term that presumes a defect to be rectified or a brokenness that must be prepared.” Similarly, the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) defines the OT profession as one which “helps people engage in living life to its fullest.”  With parallel efforts to reframe society’s declinist perspective on aging, it isn’t surprising that many Occupational Therapy practitioners are drawn to the holistic, person-centered approach supported by the Green House model.

Andrea Tyck began her career as an OT Assistant and is currently the Wellness Director and future Green House Guide at Mt. San Antonio Gardens in Pomona, CA. “Amidst the loss that elders face, our role is to help people move forward- to see beyond loss and support continued growth,” says Andrea.

Andrea Tyck began her career as an OT Assistant and will be the future Green House Guide at Mt. San Antonio Gardens

 

Just as Eden Principle #6 recognizes that “meaningless activity corrodes the human spirit”, Occupational Therapy is designed to support activities that are meaningful and purposeful for each individual. “Occupational Therapy is not just about enhancing function,” explains Andrea, “but it is supporting development for a larger purpose. In deeply knowing individual interests and rhythms of the day, OT interventions are more effective at meeting personal goals.”

While long corridors, tight schedules, and departmental silos can serve as barriers in traditional long-term care “facilities”, the Green House model is designed to support individual growth in an environment that is more than homelike– it is home. Opportunities for purposeful activities abound in a small environment that supports intentional community and meaningful engagement. What better reason to maintain or regain abilities at mealtime than the smell of a home-cooked meal and an opportunity to share convivium with your friends and family? This month, be sure to set an extra place at the table and show appreciation for the role of Occupational Therapy practitioners as care partners, mentors, and cheerleaders for elders, staff, and families. (You might as well celebrate with peach cobbler for dessert, while you’re at it!)

For more information, visit the American Occupational Therapy Association

Dr. Bill Thomas hosts a virtual launch party for his new book ‘Tribes of Eden’!

Dr. William Thomas, founder of the Eden Alternative and Green House Project, is hosting a virtual launch party for his new book, Tribes of Eden.  “I can’t tell you how excited I am for the official paperback release of my newest novel Tribes of Eden on April 2, 2012,” he writes on his Changing Aging blog. “Nearly eight years in the making, this book is inspired by and dedicated to the REAL tribes of Eden — thousands and thousands of people around the globe who make up The Eden Alternative and broader culture change community.”

If you are a Green House adopter or a member of The Eden Alternative, join Dr. Thomas via webinar for a reading from Tribes of Eden. This is a rare opportunity to get an insider’s look at the real people and places integral to the history and vision of The Eden Alternative.  A Q&A session with the author will follow.  Furthermore, every organization that hosts a book launch party will get an autographed copy to give away.

Changing Aging offers the following synopsis:

“On the run after America’s sudden and utter collapse, a family finds sanctuary in the heart of a community thriving “off the grid.” But when the lure of a virtual new world order divides the family, the elders of the community recognize that humanity’s fate rests with a chosen girl and a surprising alliance between the least powerful — the young and old.”

First Read: The Tribes of Eden from Kavan Peterson on Vimeo.

Dr. Bill Thomas hosts a virtual launch party for his new book 'Tribes of Eden'!

Dr. William Thomas, founder of the Eden Alternative and Green House Project, is hosting a virtual launch party for his new book, Tribes of Eden.  “I can’t tell you how excited I am for the official paperback release of my newest novel Tribes of Eden on April 2, 2012,” he writes on his Changing Aging blog. “Nearly eight years in the making, this book is inspired by and dedicated to the REAL tribes of Eden — thousands and thousands of people around the globe who make up The Eden Alternative and broader culture change community.”

If you are a Green House adopter or a member of The Eden Alternative, join Dr. Thomas via webinar for a reading from Tribes of Eden. This is a rare opportunity to get an insider’s look at the real people and places integral to the history and vision of The Eden Alternative.  A Q&A session with the author will follow.  Furthermore, every organization that hosts a book launch party will get an autographed copy to give away.

Changing Aging offers the following synopsis:

“On the run after America’s sudden and utter collapse, a family finds sanctuary in the heart of a community thriving “off the grid.” But when the lure of a virtual new world order divides the family, the elders of the community recognize that humanity’s fate rests with a chosen girl and a surprising alliance between the least powerful — the young and old.”

First Read: The Tribes of Eden from Kavan Peterson on Vimeo.

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:  alawson@ncbcapitalimpact.org