Green House Homes Featured on NPR

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I chatted with Dr. Bill Thomas during the grand opening of the Green Houses in Virginia.

In case you missed it, listen to this terrific All Things Considered segment, Move Over Nursing Homes — There’s Something Different. The July 23, 2013 radio story describes a visit to a Green House community in Baltimore and features Dr. Bill Thomas, the geriatrician who created the concept of elder care communities that help  residents maintain as much independence as possible.

The reporter also interviews staff members and residents who describe their daily lives the Baltimore community.

Interesting Points in the NPR Story Continue reading

New Yorker Article on New Models of Long-term Elder Care

This is the issue where the article appeared.

This is the issue where the article appeared.

If you can locate a copy of The New Yorker May 20, 2013 article The Sense of An Ending by Rebecca Mead, it’s well worth reading because of its focus on new models of providing care to fragile elders with dementia illnesses in nursing homes. The article extensively describes the Beatitudes Campus in Arizona, but it also mentions The Green House Project and the Pioneer Network. The Beatitudes model and The Green House Project  share many approaches.

So I was excited during dinner with friends last month when one of the people at the table, a neurologist, mentioned The New Yorker article, saying how excited he was to learn about new models that completely change the way we deliver care  to fragile elders, especially those with memory impairments. After he spoke at length about the article — which I had not read yet — I shared information and my blog posts about the new Woodland Park Green Houses in Harrisonburg, VA. Our physician friend seemed really eager to learn a lot more.

I”ve spent the past several years learning as much as I can about The Green House Project, primarily because my parents live at Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community (VMRC), where the Woodland Park community recently welcomed new residents. However, I’ve been so focused on this small Virginia project (but huge in spirit and dedication) that I’ve not thought much about how people can share information on the amazing changes that are taking place in long-term nursing care.

Certainly educating neurologists — the physicians all over the country who provide medical care to people with dementia and Alzheimer’s and who may, in the long run, be asked for their thoughts on the types of memory care that are available to families is a path to consider.

Fact Sheets Can Help Families With Caregiving Responsibilities

tip sheetsWhen a family member requires caregiving support, sometimes you just want a list where you can check off  tasks or a summary document that outlines the full range of your responsibilities.

The Family Caregiver Alliance – National Center on Caregiving, a San Francisco organization that assists family members who need information on long-term care issues, offers materials that can help adult children and spouses understand as much as possible about the complex and confusing world of caregiving.

According to the organization’s press release and website, the fact and tip sheets aim to help families navigate through the personal, legal and financial decisions that adult children and spouses must make when they care for elders with Alzheimer’s disease, stroke or brain trauma. I’ve downloaded several of these resources documents and they are excellent and comprehensive.

A library of more than 65 documents provides information on a wide range of topics relating to family caregiving. Links to just a few are below.       Continue reading

Sharing Bible Study With Residents at VMRC’s Woodland Park

Front entrance with its own address -- just like any other home.

Check out the new Green House Homes @ Woodland Park.

My father, a retired minister, and my mother are leading a short Bible study once a week at Woodland Park, Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community’s (VMRC), newly opened  Green House Homes. The weekly activity is engaging and fun for mom and dad, and they enjoy sharing scripture as well as music with the group members. Most of the participants who choose to attend are physically fragile and some also have significant memory loss.

Each Thursday my parents bring a lesson, as much as possible, from the weekly lectionary – the three-year cycle of Bible readings that corresponds with the events of the Christian church liturgical year. Many ministers base their Sunday sermons on these readings, and many churches schedule their Bible study groups to help members learn more about the lectionary passages prior to the Sunday service when the passages are read during worship.

At the Woodland Park Bible study sessions my parents just about always read a Psalm. Dad chooses the next reading based on how well-known and familiar it is, because the participants are increasingly engaged when they recognize the story, and some may even share a thought or two after hearing the passage read aloud. With this group familiarity with a passage is more important than any one lectionary passage.

Music and hymn singing become more central each time my parents lead a session, since just about every member of the group seems to automatically remember words to many of the old-time favorite hymns. Continue reading

Celebrating the Opening of Woodland Park – Part II

Dr. Bill Thomas speaks at the Sunday dedication of Woodland Park.

Dr. Bill Thomas speaks at the Sunday dedication of Woodland Park.

Several years ago, when Jody G. started working at Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community (VMRC), she watched a video about the Green House Homes that were to be built. Immediately she fell in love with the concepts and wanted to become a shahbaz, the name for each person who works in the home.

I knew right then that I wanted to go to work in a Green House with its atmosphere conducive to building relationships and where the residents would have a say in what happens each day,” she said. “I couldn’t wait until the houses were built.”

The second celebration at VMRC was a day to thank collaborators – attending from near and far — people who worked together to bring the new Green House Homes to life. According to CEO Ron Yoder, the entire process took nine years and two months of hard work — dreaming, envisioning, planning, designing, and building three houses. The plan is to build a total of ten houses, each with living space for ten residents. Check out the many pictures on this blog or check out the pictures of the inside of the Woodland Park homes at the VMRC website.

My parents at the grand opening. Photo courtesy of VMRC

My parents at the grand opening. Photo courtesy of VMRC

Sunday’s speakers included representatives from the Mennonite Health Services Alliance and the Virginia Association of Nonprofit Homes for Aging, and both groups will probably arrange to bring members to visit and learn more about Woodland Park. Susan Frazier, the CEO of NCB Capital Impact, a nonprofit that partners with organizations to improve elder care, shared some Green House Homes facts (see below). Thanks were offered to the architects and interior designers who created the beautiful spaces and made them look like real homes, and extra special recognition was given to VMRC staff members like Jody G., who will work in the homes as shahbazim — sharing, working, and caring for the residents in each house.

Continue reading

Celebrating the Opening at Woodland Park – Part I

cathedral ceiling green house

A beautiful cathedral ceiling and window

Now I don’t mind getting old,” exclaimed Marie Detwiler, age 91, as she explored a new Woodland Park Green House Home at Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community (VMRC). She understands the Woodland Park philosophy as do lots of others attending the first of two grand opening events in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

After chatting with Mrs. Detwiler, I remembered my reaction last week when I dropped into one of the homes for a sneak preview. “Exquisite,” I kept saying to myself as I walked from room-to-room.

yoder green house gopening

Ron Yoder, CEO, presides over the event.

Today (January 5, 2013) we celebrated at the first of two Woodland Park grand opening events — almost one year to the day since the groundbreaking. With these first Green House Homes in the Commonwealth of Virginia, VMRC aims to start a trend, encouraging other providers to recast the way they address aging issues and helping elders age well in a caring community that preserves their independence — even when they need considerable medical support.

Ron Yoder, the VMRC Chief Executive Officer, shared his thoughts about Woodland Park, thanking scores of people — contributors, committees, builders, planners, fundraisers, and everyone else who has made it possible for VMRC to design and build the new community. Each resident, Yoder noted, is assured privacy in his or her own bedroom and bathroom, ample common living space, easy access to a kitchen, wireless, and plenty of outside space to enjoy.     Continue reading