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New Option in Nursing Home Care

The New York Times has spotlighted an interesting movement in long-term care: The Green House concept, which aims to reinvent the traditional nursing home care model in a smaller, more personalized, home-like setting.  According to the AARP, in the Green House model each of the 10 to 12 residents has a private bathroom and bedroom connected to a common dining room, and access to an open kitchen where all the meals are prepared, a living room, and an indoor porch or backyard.

“Loneliness, helplessness and boredom are the three plagues of nursing homes … Arguably, much of the institutionalized practice induced this.” said Robert Jenkens, a director at the nonprofit institution that has partnered with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to fund the homes. Aside from these very real issues are the more tangible problems of abuse and neglect that have become the bane of traditional nursing homes.

So far, research on the issue has shown that residents in Green Houses have better end-of-life experiences than residents in conventional nursing homes, including:

  • 1.5 hours more nursing staff time per day
  • Higher satisfaction with the home’s environment, their own privacy, health care and meals
  • Deeper relationships with the staff (plus, employees report less stress, and the turnover rate is much lower than in a traditional nursing home)
  • Experiencing fewer bed sores and pressure ulcers –  suggesting that the trend will be fewer overall health issues that lead to hospitalization

What are the potential problems with the Green House model?  Of concern is the safety of the home itself – most are single-family houses that, in some cases, might place the residents at higher risk in the event of a fire. There is also concern about the staffing levels: each home is staffed with two certified nursing assistants and one registered nurse who typically support two or three houses. Is that adequate for the health and safety of the elderly residents? Is this a viable model for nursing home care?

Tell us what you think about the Green House project, or learn more about nursing home neglect here.

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