- Sarah Hoffman, Shahbaz, Lebanon Valley Brethran Home, Palmyra, PA
Having worked in long term care for the past 12 years, I’ve seen my share of the good, the bad and the ugly. I’ve also had the privilege of working in the Green Houses in Palmyra, PA for the past four years, and truly feel this is how long term care should have been modeled all along. While the environment is a vast improvement to traditional nursing homes and fosters more opportunities for elders to be more active and independent than they could in a traditional setting, that is only one side of the coin. I think what sets the Green House model apart is the deep rooted mission and passion that all staff share to let elders rule. Life doesn’t stop simply because one requires skilled nursing services, and all staff in Green Houses, from the shahbaz (caregiver), to the nurse, to the administration/support team undergo training to recognize this and empower the elders entrusted to our care to thrive and live life to the fullest despite whatever medical needs they have. Instead of having to conform to a schedule built around staff efficiency and convenience, elders in Green Houses truly get to live life on their terms and set their personal routines for each day based on their preferences and needs. As staff, we get to know our elders far better than we ever could in a traditional setting…we truly are family. Because we have more time to spend with the elders, we are able to deeply learn about the entire person and the rich lives they’ve led through the stories they and their families share. This allows us to help our elders create meaningful daily routines and engagement opportunities with not only staff, their families and each other, but their community as well. The Green House model isn’t only revolutionizing environment, it is transforming the mindset of long term care by putting the focus back on the elder, not the diagnosis (regardless of how severe or advanced it may be). There is a better way, and I’m honored to witness elders living it daily.