Green House Blog

A Grandaughter’s Externship Provides Insight into The Green House Model

Breanna with her grandparents, Twylah and David Haun

The Green House model has added passion and purpose to my family in many ways. My grandparents, David and Twylah Haun, are Independent Living residents at John Knox Village (JKV) and they were instrumental in bringing The Green House model to their community. We have had many great conversations about the model’s potential over the years, and it has become close to my heart as well. Currently, I am pursuing my doctorate in Occupational Therapy at the University of Southern California (USC). When a professor challenged us to seek out opportunities and learn what it means to be a leader in healthcare, I immediately thought of my grandparents. This led to an exciting externship at The Woodlands at JKV. Before I stepped foot on the grounds at JKV, I was already destined to have valuable experiences simply based on the leadership skills I could learn from my grandparents.

John Knox Village, Pompano Beach, FL

I can still remember back in 2011 when bringing The Green House model to JKV became the main topic of our Thanksgiving meal ; My grandmother was interested and my grandfather was doubtful. Never ones to be easily convinced or to skimp on their research, they decided to take a road trip to eight different Green House homes to see this model in action. After visiting four homes, Grandfather was sold on the idea and came home to put their research into action. In the years since this initial exploratory trip, my grandparents have stayed very involved in The Green House initiative at JKV and also at a national level. They have spoken at the national Green House Meeting, contributed to The Green House blog, and helped with every aspect of creating and opening The Woodlands at JKV (including selecting paintings for the walls and dishes for the dining rooms, pictured right). Grandma has continued her active role in The Green House homes by becoming a Sage, a volunteer role that allows her to mentor and support the self managed work team to become a cohesive team and help create a real home for and with the elders.

In my program, we were discussing different models of care, and my professor brought up The Green House Project. It was something USC knew little about, but were excited to see how it could change the future. I was thrilled to be able to share my grandparents’ experiences with my 150 classmates and professors. I couldn’t wait to see the model in action! The Woodlands at JKV represents the first Green House homes in Florida, and they also offer homes dedicated to short term rehabilitation. Providing meaningful therapy in a natural environment is the ideal for an occupational therapist, and an exciting reality in the Green House homes.

I spent my externship running from meeting to meeting, soaking up as many experiences as possible, and asking questions about everything. From the staff in the homes to the people working across the whole community, I was continually impressed by the way they put the needs of the elder first, and balanced that with the success of the organization.

Some of my most meaningful interactions occurred with the elders, sharing stories of joy, belonging, and feeling safe in The Green House homes. In the end, this is why we do what we do, and it filled my heart with pride to be able to see this vision that my grandparents helped to carry forward, being lived out in such a beautiful way.

My time at JKV was a wonderful learning experience, and one that I will never forget. The Green House model is truly making a difference in the lives of the elders and those who are passionate about working with them. As a leader and therapist, I know that one of the greatest gifts I can give a client is to remind them that they are a unique individual who matters. From talking to the elders and listening to their stories, watching the direct care staff prepare meals in their home, participating in leadership meetings, and delivering mail to the homes with my grandmother, every experience taught me something valuable, and I am incredibly grateful.

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