The Birmingham News had a great article discussing a new type of nursing home that makes the residents feel like they are at home instead of a hospital. Residents are called "elders," not patients. Nurses are invited guests, not managers. Home is the emphasis, not medicine, although skilled care is available.
After years of planning and then construction, the retirement community has just completed the "Cottages at St. Martin’s, a Green House Community." St. Martin’s cottages are designed after a patented Green House concept that seeks to deinstitutionalize treatment of the elderly and create a family-like environment for their long-term care.
The $11 million project involves replacing 60 of St. Martin’s 138 nursing home beds in 6 separate homes where 10 residents live with the help of certified nursing assistants. The Green House concept was developed by Dr. William Thomas, a geriatrician fed up with the sadness, loneliness and boredom in his nursing home patients. Today there are 15 Green House communities open and another 19 in development in 23 states.
St. Martin’s is the first nursing home in Alabama to embrace the idea and the first in the country to open multi-story houses. Because of limited space, St. Vincent’s has built two, three-story structures with a separate "cottage" or "Green House" on each floor. The cottages on the ground floor have an outside courtyard, and the upstairs cottages all have large, screened-in porches.
Each home has a separate entrance, and doorbells must be rung and the door answered before a nurse or other visitor enters.
The cost of care will be the same at the cottages as in the traditional nursing home. The ratio of nursing assistant to residents is better in the cottages, but the nursing assistants are also doing the cooking, light housework and other chores. Nurses make rounds on the cottages to give medicine and check vitals, but they are not the ones in charge.
Turnover of nursing assistants is expected to be less for those working in the cottages because they have more varied roles and fewer residents to look after. Nursing assistants are getting culinary training this week. A central part of each cottage is the open kitchen, from which nursing assistants can monitor the residents and residents can smell the food cooking. Weight loss is a common problem in nursing homes, but Green Houses across the country have shown that to be less of an issue when the food is prepared near the residents.