Green House Blog

Keep it Simple: How We’ll Take Aged Care Challenges

Evermore Founder Sara McKee writes about what she learned at the recent Green House conference about how we can tackle aged care challenges by keeping it simple, and the importance of celebrating differences. (Reposted from Evermore Blog)

I recently attended the annual Green House  conference in Fort Lauderdale. It was fantastic to be in a T-shirt in November – having left rather chillier conditions back in Manchester.  It was also great to be with hundreds of believers from across America who are delivering a better way of living in older age, every day.

I was the only English person at the conference alongside fellow international explorers from Panama, Brazil, Bermuda, Israel and Singapore. However, if you take the vast expanse that is the United States, then it felt truly multicultural with folks from Alaska to Colorado, Pittsburgh and Arkansas.

Whilst the language of the conference was English, this multicultural dimension made us all recognise our differences in culture, approach and, indeed, language. We may all be speaking the same words, but do we really understand each other’s meaning?

James Wright delivered a challenging keynote on diversity and inclusion, highlighting our scientifically proven hidden biases. He explained how we operate on an unconscious level which makes us have implicit preferences.  A book he referenced about the topic is ‘The Hidden Brain’ and I’m going to read it to find out more.

One example he gave was how we make assumptions based on accent. He said that coming from South Carolina, he’d trained out his southern drawl as that made him sound stupid in the eyes/ears of others. Good News for me was that he said the English accent was universally seen as the smartest sound!

He was keen to point out that it doesn’t make us racists or any particular “–ists” – it simply is how we’re made! His mission is to move from talking about equality to equity – a discussion deserving of a blog of its own.

What can we learn from all of this?

We had gathered at this conference, many colours, ages and backgrounds to talk about the challenges we all faced with an ageing population and a shrinking workforce. Yes, we had similar challenges, we could share experiences and our different solutions. And yet we were not all the same.  That’s where it felt we had real strength. If we celebrated our differences and built on our joint appetite for collaboration, we could continue to innovate and create new opportunities for living well in older age.

James shared this clever video which reinforced the point for me: “Be together, not the same

My take away from the conference – Keep it Simple:

  • Simplify our approach to engaging with customers – what matters to you? Not what’s the matter with you!
  • Simplify our language – let’s get rid of the jargon. We talk about ‘convivium’ at the heart of our family households, yet it’s hard to say and even harder to spell – so let’s talk about sharing our life together and breaking bread.
  • Be consumer driven – let’s develop and deliver services that are focused on what our customers want. Sounds obvious, but often feels like rocket science in the world of aged care.
  • Translate connectedness, meaning, purpose and exercise into everyday activities. Not make each element someone’s task.

I’ve come back from the conference feeling re-energised and determined to maintain our international collaboration as we can all learn and build new world thinking together.

British Parliament Takes a Look at The Green House Project

From the ChangingAging Blogstream

The Green House Project isn’t just making waves in the U.S. The model’s innovative transformation of nursing home care was the the subject of a British Parliamentary hearing this week on the future of caregiving in the UK.

A British researcher who recently visited the United States testified before the Parliament Health Committee Tuesday, Jan. 10, that Britain should look at the Green House model as the future of nursing home care.

Dr. James Mumford, a senior researcher for the Centre for Social Justice, told Parliament that it was “absolutely vital that we dream a different future for residential care, particularly nursing care,” and “The Green House model presents a new way of doing that.” The Centre for Social Justice is a British think tank focused on finding effective solutions to poverty and Mumford leads research focused on low-income older adults in the UK.

“The (Green House) model was invented by Dr Bill Thomas but it is not just a brainchild; it actually exists. There are 127 Green Houses in the U.S. with 250 in development,” Mumford said.

In Britain, policymakers are currently too focused on delivering services that help elders remain in their homes longer, Mumford said. He warned that the growing population of adults with dementia and other chronic conditions means the need for nursing homes (which the British call “care homes”) is not going away and such settings need to be reformed.

The committee called on Mumford to report findings of his visit to the U.S., including a tour of Green House homes at The Eddy in Albany, N.Y. Mumford testified that the key innovations in the Green House model are achieved through reforms in design and staff ethos:

These Green Houses are self-contained buildings for nine to 12 people with about two staff members looking after each home. Their kitchen is not downstairs or siphoned off but is actually at the heart of the home. There are no clinical corridors and the rooms are off the central area.

The design is half of it. The second half of the innovation is around the staffing ethos. Basically, by cutting out middle management, the key thought is this: the staff in the care home context are bigger than the roles that they have.

By empowering the staff to actually take responsibility for the way that that particular Green House is run, and by also allowing them to take charge of cooking the meals and doing the laundry, you make huge staffing efficiencies, so that there is not actually any more hour per resident in terms of the staff labour cost, but it is for the same cost.

“They have seen extraordinary results from what they have achieved because of these two dramatic innovations at the heart of this new form of care,” Mumford testified. “As I said, this is not just a bright idea, it is being backed and rolled out across the US.”

Watch the full Parliament hearing here (Mumford’s Green House testimony begins 28 minutes into the hearing):

You can read the full transcript of Mumford’s testimony after the jump.

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