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Beyond The Comfort Of Home By: Dan Levitt

Beyond The Comfort Of Home: New Residential Model Of Living Turns Traditional Nursing Care Model Upside Down

Maria is 105 years of age. In her bedroom, the centenarian sits comfortably in a high-back chair with a view of Boston Harbour. Within an arm’s reach is a remote control designed for her with large numbers to enhance independent TV watching.Home-articleLarge

Next to her wall-mounted flat screen TV is a chalk board with the activities of the week: hairdo every Tuesday, bingo at 2 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday, communion at 10 a.m. on Sundays, and the times and channels for her favourite TV shows. Her bed is adorned with a knitted wool artisan comforter that matches the colours of her window coverings. A hand pendant is within easy reach should she need assistance and a large numbered digital clock is placed on top of her bedside table

Her home at the Leonard Florence Center for Living in Chelsea, Mass., is the newest model of care combining the comforts of home with individualized complex nursing care. It does not look like a nursing home. It looks like a home, providing dignity, privacy and the comfort of living in a household environment. Her residence is the first urban multi-storied Green House building as conceived by Dr. Bill Thomas, a Harvard-educated geriatrician who helped create a nurturing living model. The Green House Project is a radically new approach to long term care in which conventional nursing homes are replaced with small, homelike settings where people can live a full and interactive life.

There are 10 seniors living in each of 10 households. As you enter the homes, one is greeted with a front porch doorway, complete with a welcome mat, mailbox and doorbell. Each resident has a private space with a bedroom, bathroom and shower. A single ceiling track allows seniors to be lifted and transferred from the bed into the bathroom. In many nursing homes, seniors share their room with another resident that also includes sharing a standard toilet and sink with privacy and dignity neglected in the design. Losing privacy is among the issues that seniors fear the most when moving into a traditional nursing home.

The private bedrooms open into a comfortable living room centered around a fireplace, dining room and kitchen, all within a small open floor plan. All the action is visible for the residents simply by wandering out of their room to look at what is going on and to decide if they wish to participate. An outdoor area is accessible in each neighbourhood with patio furniture and views of the gardens below.

This senior living residence is all about choice. A full working kitchen, one of which Julia Child would have been proud, is at the center of the house providing lovingly prepared meals, served family-style at a single dining table. Each of the 10 households operates its kitchen independently. There is no central kitchen shipping prepared meals on steam tables to each dining room. There are no name cards on the dining room tables. As a result, seniors can sit wherever they wish.

Menu and dining times are chosen by the seniors so they can eat what they want, when they want. A ADVOCACY COMMUNITY NEWS ON TOPIC Beyond the comfort of home: New residential model of living turns traditional nursing care model upside down wheelchair-accessible countertop displays delicious home baked goods next to a bowl of bananas, pineapple, cantaloupe and honeydew. Another bowl is filled with green and red grapes. The menu and recipes would satisfy even the most discerning palates. The majority of the residents living at the center were once esteemed cooks in their households and expect the same quality in old age.

Of the 10 homes, one household is designated for people with Multiple Sclerosis and one for people with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Lou Gehrig’s disease. These houses employ technology that provides people living there with more freedom to live independently. The residents have complete control over the doors, lights, thermostat, elevator, home theatre, and window coverings. With a sensor on his eyeglasses, a resident is able to pinpoint letters on his computer to form words and sentences that are spoken through automation. As a result, he can communicate with all the eye-gaze technology in the home. The technology application in the home extends individual freedom in one’s living environment.

The Main Street ground floor is where residents find Betsy’s Bakery Cafe, Eisenberg’s Kosher Deli, Adelson Field Synagogue Chapel, a living room, conference room and a European day spa. Some residents spend their time in common areas relaxing. A nearby cascading waterfall feature that provides a calming background sound while other residents choose to participate in group activities. It’s their preference. The residents have the choice to dine in their household or go to the main floor eateries.

It takes the nursing-home industry as we know it and it flips it, creating a very homelike residential model of care. There is no central nursing station and no long corridors as those in a traditional nursing home. When you enter the home you feel a sense this is the best place for your mom or dad. The Center for Living creates a private residence where 10 people live and complex care is offered in that household. It is difficult to see anything that would tell you that you are in a nursing home. Each residence has a multi-skilled worker who provides personal care, prepares meals and performs housekeeping for elders. Known as a Shabaz, the versatile caregiver becomes recognized by the people living in the Green House as a friend, not as someone who is just another employee.

It takes visionaries to create a home that redefines institutional living. The home gives residents, families and friends their lives back.

By Dan Levitt