The Green House Residences at the Brooks Rehabilitation Center in Jacksonville are not filled with plants, but as of last week, they are fostering a new type of nurturing and growth.
The pair of houses were built at Brooks so that seniors suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease could feel more at home.
“(A) greenhouse is where plants grow and flourish. The Green House Project is where elders grow and bloom,” said Brooks' healthcare innovations manager Sama Beg. “So the whole core of the model is making it home, de-institutionalizing long term care.”
Walking into the Green House is akin to walking into a mini mansion. Each house has 12 private bedrooms and bathrooms. The kitchen has sleek, dark counter tops with an induction stove built into the large island. Hand rails are attached to the walls, and the bathrooms are wheelchair accessible.
The starting price to rent a room is slightly less than $7,000 a month, said Beg. That cost also covers food, utilities, basic cable, a phone line and personal care assistance such as bathing and laundry.
New York-based geriatrician Dr. Bill Thomas, founder of the Green House Project, realized there was a need for a new type of long term housing for seniors when he saw the nursing homes getting older faster than the people living in them.
The first Green House was built in 2004 in Mississippi. Since then, other Green Houses were built around the country. Each house is run a little differently, but, according to Thomas, it's what the houses lack that makes a difference.
"One of the first things you would notice is there is no overhead page, there's no rumbling supply carts, there's no bustling nurses,” Thomas said. “It just kind of looks like, feels like and smells like home."
For Stephanie Ehlen, nurse specialist at Brooks, the houses are not just a place where seniors can feel more at home, they also allow staff to form a deeper relationship with the elders, she said.
“With the homes being small the elders are right here,” Ehlen said. “Everything is at your fingertips to make your job easier and give you more time to spend with the elders.”
Even though seniors living in Green Houses will receive extra care compared to living in nursing homes, Thomas says Green Houses are still affordable.
The monthly rate to live in a nursing home in Florida is on par to the rate at the Green House Residences.
While Brooks Rehabilitation is the first in Florida to build Green Houses, Thomas predicted more of these houses will pop up around the Sunshine State in the future.