The University of Syracuse’s Democracywise news website explores The Green House Project coming to Loretto Health and Rehabilitation Center in Syracuse:
Caring for the elderly should be more home-like, say advocates for a different kind of nursing home.
Now, say the advocates, nursing homes are large-scale operations that try to increase economic and service efficiency by collecting large numbers of elderly in one place. Instead, the advocates say, the better way to go is small. That would also create a sense of belonging for the elderly, the advocates say, instead of the impersonal traditional nursing home.
“It’s more like ‘I have a room here but it’s not my home,’” said Tammy Marshall, vice president of mission integration and strategic planning at Loretto Health and Rehabilitation Center in Syracuse. “So we create a more home-like setting.”
Enter the Green House Project.
That’s a national project created by a Syracuse geriatrician (Dr. Bill Thomas) who won a $10-million grant to develop and promote the alternative-style of nursing homes. Locally, Marshall is overseeing Loretto’s plan to build 13 of the Green Houses in Cicero. Each home will house 12 seniors.
The Green House Project, say Marshall and other advocates, will cost no more than the traditional nursing-home care but will be more humane and respectful of the elderly.
“It’s not more like home. It’s not redesigned to be more like home,” said Melissa Roeder, a social worker at Loretto. “It can be someone’s home and they can live there, still have a good quality of life and receive the care that they need.”
The Green House project is the brainchild of Dr. Bill Thomas, a geriatrician from Syracuse. Much of Thomas’s inspiration for the program came from caring for his two daughters, who have Ohtahara Syndrome. That’s a rare developmental disorder with symptoms that Thomas likens to advanced dementia.
“This idea of providing dignity, respect and a joyful sense of daily life is really a part of my own personal family life,” Thomas said.
In 2005, Thomas and his Green House idea caught the attention of the Robert Johnson Wood Foundation, which gave Thomas a $10-million grant. He partnered with NCB Capital Impact, a national non-profit community development organization, to manage the project. Now, Green House Projects are in the works in 26 states.
In New York, the Loretto project is one of three Green House programs in the state. The other two are Eddy Village Green in Cohoes, N.Y., and the Henrietta Green House Homes in Rochester. In Cicero, construction on the homes will start in the fall of 2011.
In Central New York, Loretto’s Green House Project will house seniors who need skilled nursing care. Their expenses will be covered by Medicaid, the joint federal-state insurance program that has become the primary source of funding for the elderly and disabled in the United States.
The staff— called the “shahbazim” — at the Green Houses will be certified nursing assistants with an additional training in areas such as CPR, cooking and household maintenance. This differs from a traditional nursing home, which have multiple kinds of nurses performing various functions.
The Green Houses will be structured so that the seniors living there will be in charge, say Lorretto officials. “Every day, the elders have choices in how their days is spent,” said Sue Williams, Loretto’s nursing director. “They dictate to us how they want to be cared for.”
It’s not yet clear, say Loretto officials, who will be the residents of the newly built Green Houses. Some of the seniors now living at Loretto could be transferred to the Green Houses. Some may not want to leave Loretto.
Dorothy Jones, a native of Syracuse, for example, has lived at Loretto for ten years. She’s happy there, she said, and is not sure she wants to move to a new place. “I’m so used to it here,” said Jones. “I’m not sure I’d want to go. It’s kind of up in the air.”
(Michael Contino is a senior broadcast journalism and international relations major).