A healthier take on the nursing home
“Green Houses” are smaller, have satisfied staff – and happier residents.
By Michael Vitez
Inquirer Staff Writer
REDFORD, Mich. – Linda Johnson is never going back.
After 14 years as a certified nursing assistant – the bottom of the food chain in the nursing home culture – she has tasted the future.
She is now a “Shahbaz” in a “Green House” – a respected worker in a new model of caring for the frailest elderly.
“I love it,” Johnson said. “It’s not a rush anymore. We get to spend quality time with [residents]. They think we’re family. And we are.”
Imagine a world in which the nursing home idea is turned upside down:
Just 10 residents live in a house, rather than the standard 120-180 people, and despite their dementia and infirmities, they’re happier and healthier.
Nursing aides, with their new titles, are empowered and love their jobs.
Despite more personalized care, costs are the same or less than in nursing homes.
The Green House was conceived by Bill Thomas, a pioneer in long-term care.
The first cluster of six Green Houses opened three years ago in a continuing-care community in Tupelo, Miss. Based on their initial success, three more groups in Mississippi, Nebraska and Michigan have moved nursing home residents into Green Houses.
Green Houses are also being built in central Pennsylvania, in Palmyra and Mechanicsburg.
The differences between a Green House and a nursing home hit you first from outside. The two Redford Green Houses, opened in August by Presbyterian Villages of Michigan, look like new homes on a residential street, with pitched roofs, shutters and garden. To enter, a visitor rings a doorbell.
“Hi!” says Johnson. “Welcome to our home.”