Imagine walking into a traditional nursing home for the first time. There is a reception area at the front door. Turn right and walk down a hallway – there are resident rooms on both sides. There is typically a nurse’s station. in amongst the rooms. There may be medication carts in the hallway. There may even be food carts for those residents who cannot make it to the dining hall. Imagine walking into this traditional nursing for the first time…and being told: "This is your new home." Well, that ain’t like any home I’ve ever lived in…it’s a hospital…it’s an institutional facility…it is definitely NOT a "home." 

In a article in yesterday’s New York Times, Laurie Tarkin explains a relatively new movement in the nursing home industry – Green Houses. These "green houses" are not the kind you grow plants in. They are not even particularly "green" as in environmentally sound. Instead, the Green House theory of nursing home care places residents in real, honest-to-goodness (although slightly modified) homes on the property of the main facility. The article describes the Green Houses as:

  • Front door opening into a large living and dining area;
  • A hearth surrounded by upholstered chairs;
  • A long communal dining table where meals are served;
  • Kitchens that open to the dining table so caregivers can chat with residents while preparing meals;
  • Private bedrooms and bathrooms;
  • Front porch and back deck with tables and chairs.

Perhaps, more importantly, are the items not present in a Green House. There are no: corridors, nursing stations, medicine carts, trays of food delivered to residents in their rooms.

In this environment, staff actually gets to know their residents. They spend more time, on average, with their residents and, according to the article, are more able to build a personal bond with their residents.

There are approximately 117 of these Green Houses across the country. I wonder if there are any here in Idaho? I haven’t heard of any such facilities here. If you know of one, I’d like to hear from you.

Imagine walking into a Craftsman-style bungalow. You walk up the porch and notice the rocking chairs. You walk in the front door and notice a hearth ablaze in a warming glow and your new housemate seated in a nice chair in front of it. You see a friendly staff member cooking your first meal in the kitchen. You drop your belongings off in your room and return to the main living room. Your loved one, maybe your son or daughter, reaches over to you and says: "This is your new home." You smile and say: "Yes it is." 

Will the Green House movement accelerate? Will it fall by the wayside as an expensive experiment? Who knows. Is the care received as good or better than that provided in a traditional nursing home? The studies referred to in the article seem to indicate it is.

If you or a loved one is in such a facility, I would love to hear from you about the experience. What are the pluses or minuses? I can’t wait to hear from you!