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Green House Project Offers Seniors Alternatives to Nursing Homes

More than one million Americans live in nursing homes, where the rates of financial, sexual, physical, and mental abuse are high and still raising. Senior abuse lawyers at Pintas & Mullins highlight an exciting new alternative to nursing homes for the elderly known as The Green House Project, which already has 148 homes nationwide and is currently planning 150 more.

At Green House homes, nursing assistants (who are all certified) are trained to do a bit of everything. One such assistant, Tumarka Wilson, often cooks for the home’s elders and is able to spend much quality time with them doing activities and helping with daily routines. She is able to spend so much one-on-one time with them because at Green House, unlike traditional nursing homes, the days are not rigidly planned and scheduled. Residents can choose when and where they would like to eat, go to sleep, and do daily tasks.

If they are hungry at the same time, residents and staff eat together, reinforcing the sense of community in the space. The kitchen is open, and resembles more so a large suburban home than a hospital. Tumarka Wilson used to work at a more traditional nursing home in Baltimore, and prefers the Green House for the variety its tasks and better environment. There are no more than 12 residents at any one Green House, and every resident has their own bed and bathroom situated near common areas. At most of the nation’s nursing homes, nurses (who are not always certified or professionals) average between 25 and 30 patients, by themselves, per shift. This is gives them barely enough time to dole out drugs and change dressings, much less support them spiritually and emotionally.

The non-profit Green House Project is based on one idea: to abolish nursing homes all together. It was created by a geriatrician from New York, Dr. Bill Thomas, who conceived of the idea in the 1990s when he realized the drugs he was prescribing to his patients in nursing home were not treating – and never could treat – the real source of their suffering, which was loneliness. He also realized that traditional, mass nursing home complexes would have to be replaced soon anyway: most were built in the 1960s and 70s.

So, he asked, what comes next? The first Green House homes opened in Mississippi in 2004. Now there are 148 throughout the country, and there is enough research to get an idea of how the alternative homes are working for our seniors. Studies show residents are happier and stay healthier longer. The amenities of the Green House homes, such as private rooms, are not just there for luxury, but for safety.

In traditional nursing homes two or three residents often share a room or a joined bathroom with another full room. That means oftentimes five or six people are sharing toilets and wash basins, further increasing the spread of infection.

Studies also show that Green House residents are able to maintain their independence longer than those in traditional nursing homes, where rules are strict and schedules are rigid. Residents at traditional homes are, more often than not, wheeled around the long halls of facilities all day for efficiency and safety. At Green House, there are no strict schedules and meal times are not rigid. Residents can enjoy meals at the long communal table, with others residents and staff alike, or in the privacy of their own private rooms. It is completely up to them.

Though they seem high-end, Green House homes are actually priced in the average range for nursing homes throughout the country, and in the house in Baltimore, many of the residents are low-income on Medicaid. Pressure, then, is low, so residents can focus their strength on staying happy and healthy. There are currently about 150 more Green House projects in development throughout the nation.

Green House is able to keep prices low because it is operated as a non-profit. Most other nursing homes in the U.S. are run by large corporations, which are exactly that: corporations. They, like any other business, place priority on profits instead patients, and the results are tragic and often devastating. Chronic understaffing and cuts in resources lead to rampant resident abuse, neglect and exploitation. As staff is exhausted, overworked and stressed out, so become the residents.

Senior abuse lawyers at Pintas & Mullins will continue to report on studies and reports on developments such as the Green House Project. If you or a loved one was injured as a result of negligence or abuse at a nursing home, you have important legal rights, and may be entitled to compensation through a lawsuit against the facility or its parent company. Contact a skilled nursing home lawyer as soon as possible for a free, no-obligation consultation.

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