By Dr. Al Power
Everyone who is building Green Houses® is delighted by the stories their predecessors tell about people rediscovering old capabilities in the new living environment. But we all hope to see it for ourselves with our own elders.
At St. John’s new Green Houses, we haven’t even opened yet, but we have already seen our first such example of the power of this model.
Last week, as the staff were undergoing in-house culinary training, they invited one or two elders and their families each day to come by and have lunch. On Wednesday, I was meeting with some design expert friends, and our Guide, Rebecca Priest, invited us to come out and join Don and his family for lunch.
Don, formerly of MIT, now lives with moderately advanced dementia. At the nursing home, he needs the fairly heavy assistance of two staff members to move from one chair to another. As such, he came out to the Green House in a wheelchair van and after a tour, he was transferred with a fair amount of effort into a chair at the dining room table.
All of us joined Don and his family for the better part of an hour, enjoying soup, sandwiches and good company.
When the time came to leave, Don’s wheelchair was brought over and he quickly stood, and with minimal help from one staff member, transferred back to his wheelchair. Rebecca said, “Hey Don, what’s the deal? It takes two people to help you transfer at the home!”
Don slowly replied, “Well…I guess I’m supposed to be sick over there.”
A humorous postlude to the story is that later that day, the mattresses arrived. We have broken another barrier by buying a full-sized bed for every elder in the Green Houses. We couldn’t find a single vendor in the country that would make us one, so Rebecca just went to the local mattress store and purchased 10 Tempurpedic-style residential beds for each house.
The doorbell rang, and there was a truck with two puzzled looking men at the door. One said, “We’re supposed to deliver a bunch of mattresses to some nursing home around here.”
He was assured that he was in the right place. As he walked into the living room, his jaw dropped, and he said, “This doesn’t look like any nursing home I’ve ever seen before!”
G. Allen Power, MD is Eden Mentor at St. John’s Home in Rochester, NY, and Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Rochester. He is a board certified internist and geriatrician, and is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians / American Society for Internal Medicine.