Reposted from www.stjohnsliving.org
“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.”