Green House's 'New Style of Nursing Home' Stalled in California

Published On: April 27th, 2011By Categories: Blog

Ninety-nine Green House Project nursing homes are operating in 27 states and plans are under way to spread the small-scale skilled nursing model to nearly all 50 states.
However, those efforts have stalled in California where regulations written with big institutional nursing homes in mind are hindering development of The Green House Project’s innovative home-like model for delivering skilled nursing care.
California lawmakers held a hearing April 25 to investigate what regulatory roadblocks need to be addressed to allow development of Green House Project homes in California.
For example, current state regulations require separation of a nursing home’s cooking area from the living area. “For a big facility with dozens or even hundreds of patients and an industrial kitchen, that might make sense,” reported Veteran California journalist Daniel Weintraub, editor of the policy news site HealthyCal.org.

But in a Greenhouse Project home, the kitchen is much like that of a normal house, and it serves a similar function. Its open design allows a staff person to cook and chat with residents at the same time, much like people do in a regular home setting.

Weintraub interviewed Green House Project Director Robert Jenkins, who works with nursing homes to help adopt the Greenhouse Project model. Jenkins said:

“When they are cooking a meal, they can have a conversation with an elder sitting at the counter, or in the living room. It’s just a little more creative use of resources…
“We are shifting from a model where people are there to receive bed and body work, but not much else. We are shifting to a place where you or I would be known as the person we are, and cared about and cared for as an individual with preferences, a history, with needs and emotions, and a desire to have meaningful days in the nursing home where we are receiving our care.”

This increased one-on-one time allows the staff person to get to know the patient better and, Jenkens said, leads to better care. Studies have shown that staff enjoy their jobs more, family members believe the care is better, and the patients spend less time in the hospital.
Although Jenkens says that a key part of the project’s success to date has been its ability work within federal and state rules and regulations, that hasn’t been the case so far in California. One facility is on the drawing boards, in Pomona in Los Angeles County, but Jenkens said his group is still trying to find a way to make that home fit within the state’s rules.

To learn how to support efforts to bring Green House homes to your community, download the Green House Project Consumer Tool Kit here. If you live in California, please contact your state representative using the sample letter included in the toolkit to express your support for The Green House Project. Simply enter your zip code at this website to find your state representative‘s contact information.