The Atlantic Magazine Showcases The Green House® Project’s Next Move

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All meals are home cooked at each cottage. Breakfast is made individually as Residents wake up. Lunch and dinner are served family style, at the dining room table.Green House® homes are defined by three things: a small home with 10 to 12 private bedrooms, a team of self-managed universal workers, team, and a philosophy of care that puts the concerns of the residents first. There are currently 173 Green House homes across the country, and White Oak Cottages is one of them.

This month’s edition of The Atlantic includes an article on the Green House homes, which traces the origins of this movement and the path that one adopter, the Leonard Florence House, in Chelsea, Massachusetts, took. It reviews the impressive record of better results of Green House homes: higher satisfaction ratings from patients and families, lower staff turnover, and lower operating costs. And it asks an important question: Why are there not more of these homes?

As discussed in The Atlantic, Green House homes as currently conceived, cannot be carved out of existing institutional space. They require new construction and often more land on which to build them. Most nursing homes do not have the necessary capital to create these homes. In the last year, the thought leaders who have built and promoted the Green House concept have started to think about how to bring the most essential elements of the Green House home into traditional nursing home settings.

When prospective families tour White Oak Cottages, they are struck by its appealing architecture: the private bedrooms with a full bathroom, the airy and welcoming living room, the beautiful garden and walking paths. We tell these families (just like The Little Prince said) that “what is most essential is invisible to the eye.” What makes the Green House really feel like home, is the control the residents retain over daily decisions and the way the staff view and treat the residents. Realizing that meaningful culture change can occur without a new building is very good news for a project that is now trying to extend its influence to nursing homes with traditional architecture.

Barry Berman, President of the Chelsea Jewish Foundation, is leading the way. He plans to transform his Chelsea Jewish Nursing Home, a traditional nursing home structure, by creating households within his existing nursing home and training staff on the Green House principles. He has the blessings of The Green House Project, which is developing its concept of a “Pathway to Green House.” This first effort will be a laboratory for discovering how much physical change is necessary to support the other tenets of the Green House philosophy. If this transformation results in real changes in the experience of living in a nursing home, it could signal the start of an important new chapter in long term care.

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