Helping Parents Stay Out of a Nursing Home?

The Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times recently published an instructive article explaining in detail what adult children can do to help our parents stay out of nursing homes.

Written by Karen Ravn, the article suggests focusing on nine specific issues that make an enormous difference in the safety and security of a senior parent’s home environment — where most elders want to live as long as they can.

Best Quote in the Article

According to Dr. David Reuben, Geriatrics Chief at UCLA’s Department of Medicine, “… there’s always a tension between autonomy and safety. Children may want to err on the side of safety, but parents may want to err on the side of autonomy.”

One of the reasons that I am so excited about the  Green House® Homes construction at Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community (VMRC), where my parents live, is the added option that these new dwellings will provide for my family, should one of my parents be unable to continue living at home. While their goal (and mine) is for them to continue living at home, we do not know what may happen to alter our plans, so it’s wonderful to have a care option that is not a nursing home. Moreover, one of the many advantages of Green House® Homes is that a key part of the mission is to help elders maintain their autonomy.

These four As Our Parents Age posts describe the process at VMRC. Watch for more that describe the construction. Continue reading

Green House Homes are Coming: Following the Construction #1

Earlier this month (July 2011) I took pictures (see below) of the demolition at the site of the future Green House® Homes at Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community (VMRC). In a recent article in the Harrisonburg News-Record, VMRC Vice President for Support Living, Melissa Fortner, reminded readers that the goal is for these new homes is to blend in and look like any other homes in the neighborhood. “It’s going to be a neighborhood just like you or I might live in,” she commented.

I’ll be posting pictures from time to time to keep readers up-to-date on the project which is to be called Woodland Park. Check out the bottom of the main page of the VMRC site to watch a video of the community celebration marking the start of the demolition, including a short presentation by Ron Yoder, the President of the VMRC organization.

Continue reading

Green House Home Video Tour

Head over to the always information-filled and sometimes wonderfully provocative ChangingAging blog to see a guided video tour of a Green House Home. Led by elder advocate Dr. Bill Thomas, the walk-through is a must-see for anyone who wants to understand exactly what a Green House looks like as well as learn more about this non-medical, neighborhood-oriented living choice for elders.

Green houses are revolutionary, though I marvel at how it became revolutionary for people in the later years of their lives to expect to avoid a medical model and instead live in a normal residential situation while getting the support that they need. Go Green!

Sometime soon I plan to check in with Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community (VMRC) to see how the planning for their Green House Homes building campaign is going. In the meantime, you can read the three posts I wrote about VMRC’s Green House planning a couple of months ago .

Retiring Near a University? Sounds Divine!

When my parents retired to the Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community (VMRC) in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, they looked forward to the many resources available to residents — a wide range of activities, the wellness center, the beautiful campus, and much more. However, another advantage of retiring in the VMRC location was the university next door. In fact the retirement community abuts the university land.

My parents also enjoy all sorts of opportunities at this university. They attend concerts, listen to lectures, and use athletic facilities — especially an indoor track. Athletic teams play each season, and a group of retirees gathers at almost every event to cheer them on to victory. A personal favorite of my parents, both former college professors, is the university library, which welcomes residents of the VMRC community. And once in a while my parents even enjoy purchasing dinner tickets and visiting the university dining hall.

Continue reading

Continuing Care Retirement Communities

Lately continuing care retirement communities (CCRC’s) are in the news. Confusing information abounds, and it can be worrisome for anyone who is in the process of choosing a CCRC, as well as for aging parents who already live in a community. In the last two months (August – September 2010) The New York Times and Wall Street Journal each published an article on the subject.

For a lot more helpful information on CCRC’s check out the  Our Parents blog. Leigh Ann Otte has written two comprehensive posts highlighting the issues involved and linking to outside resources. Both also link to other informational posts on her blog. Check out the links below.

Nuts and Bolts of Green House Planning: Part III

“Whatever form they take, there should always be as little distinction as possible between a Green House and the other housing nearby.”
What Are Old People For? How Elders Will Save the World by William H. Thomas, M.D. (page 233)

The Green House vision projected by Dr. Thomas has become a small, growing movement with combined knowledge that benefits aspiring Green House builders like Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community. NCB Capital Impact, a company that supports these building initiatives, is the repository of this increasing knowledge, organizing the information and experiences so newer Green House projects, like that at VMRC, benefit from lessons already learned.

I have visited the site and the trees are already there.

While VMRC has decided to build 10 Green Houses — the number it will take to replace Oak Lea — the community expects to build three houses in phase one. Money needs to be raised, stakeholder education has to continue, and a resident committee of people currently living in other VMRC neighborhoods is organizing to ensure the success of the project. Building these houses requires long-term “buy-in” from many people.

The first part of the project will cost $4.5 million. VMRC retained NCB Capital Impact to help with a feasibility study and pre-development planning and continues to work with the company today. Fundraising is ongoing, now in a silent phase, and if the recession has  hampered things a bit, activity is proceeding enthusiastically, nonetheless.

The plan is to build VMRC Green Houses  in a tree-filled area near other VMRC residences, a high school, residential housing, and the Eastern Mennonite University. Continue reading