The Green House Project, a nonprofit founded by Dr. Bill Thomas in the early 2000s, is expanding its memory care programming.
As part of its new Green House 2.0 initiative, the organization now offers its “Best Life” memory care approach to senior living providers outside of its network of small homes. Best Life is centered on memory care residents’ accomplishments, not their shortcomings, and is based on four principles: the power of normal, focus on retained abilities, the dignity of risk and advocacy.
The Green House model is meant to be an alternative to traditional long-term care settings, with up to a dozen residents living in homelike facilities with private rooms. Green Houses are typically staffed by “universal workers” who provide a wide range of services and care, and follow a philosophy of allowing residents maximum autonomy rather than being confined to a schedule of set mealtimes and other restrictions.
While there are roughly 280 Green House homes in the U.S., other senior living providers have mirrored the approach in creating their own small-home models that aren’t officially affiliated with the organization.
Green House first rolled out Best Life among its homes in 2017, with Anne Ellett as the program’s developer. Ellett previously was a senior vice president with Irvine, California-based Silverado, one of the largest providers of standalone memory care communities in the nation. Green House hired Ellett on full-time in January of this year to expand the best practices beyond the nonprofit’s affiliated communities.
For an annual fee, providers get four days of onsite training and an education module for staff and leadership, with an optional fifth day of trainer certification at an added cost. Providers will also have access to support, consultation, education and access to Green House’s dementia care experts, including Ellett.
Green House also recently announced it joined forces with Embodied Labs, a tech company that uses virtual reality to help caregivers experience life in the shoes of an older adult. The experience is meant to help Best Life trainees gain more empathy and knowledge about dementia.
The move to expand the offering beyond Green House homes is aimed at helping senior living providers better serve residents living with Alzheimer’s, dementia or other cognitive changes — a growing need across the senior housing industry that isn’t always filled, according to Ellett.
“Everybody these days says they’re an expert in memory care,” Ellett told Senior Housing News. “But if you actually look at the daily experience and the quality of life of people living with dementia, not all that much has changed.”
The training doesn’t just apply to senior living providers with memory care operations, either. Many senior housing residents are also living with some kind of cognitive changes in other levels of care, such as assisted living or post-acute settings.
“The majority of residents are facing cognitive changes,” Ellett said. “The way I like to approach it is, if you had 80% of your residents suffering from diabetes, wouldn’t you have a very intentional, in-depth approach to supporting them?”
Green House isn’t the only organization trying to shake up memory care. Across the industry, stakeholders including Brookdale Senior Living (NYSE: BKD) and the Alzheimer’s Association are searching for ways to enhance care for people living with cognitive changes. The magnitude of the issue is large, and growing: an estimated 5.7 million Americans currently live with Alzheimer’s, but that number could roughly double by 2050, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.