THE GREEN HOUSE® HOMES RIBBON CUTTING
The striking thing about the décor in the Green House® home World War II Veteran Adrienne Burke will soon move into is that it isn’t overly masculine, Burke noticed during the recent open house at her new address at the Lovell Federal Health Care Center.
“Everything is for the men where I live now,” the 89-year-old said as she appreciatively observed the artwork and homey features of the Green House home after the ribbon-cutting ceremony Oct. 1. “It’s all pictures of eagles, fishing, nothing for women. This is very nice.”
Burke, currently a resident of the Community Living Center at Lovell FHCC, held the scissors and helped cut the ribbon on the first home to open in the neighborhood already dubbed “Heroes Harbor.” At the ribbon, Burke was joined by the FHCC’s namesake, retired astronaut and Navy Capt. James A. Lovell, fellow Green House home resident Bernard Kelly, Illinois Rep. Robert Dold, Department of Veterans Affairs and U.S. Navy leaders, and construction contract representatives.
“We are creating a new world view about long-term nursing care,” said Dr. Christa Hojlo, Director of VA Community Living Centers (formerly VA nursing homes), in a speech during the ceremony. “Our Community Living program is not a place to simply put people … in the Green House home, they are first, and then, foremost, home, and they are not a patient, but a resident.”
Hojlo said the goal is to provide a dynamic array of services, “to provide the highest level of well-being and function at any age. The patient is no longer a passive recipient of service. Through the Green House home project, we have learned how to see the human person.”
When he spoke at the opening, Lovell FHCC Director Patrick Sullivan recounted a story related to a Green House home he visited in Michigan. “Ota” moved from a traditional long-term care facility to a Green House home, he said. Before she moved, she was most likely depressed and kept to herself. “A short while after moving into the Green House home, Ota began eating her meals around the kitchen table and socializing with a few of the other residents,” he said.
“It became known that Ota always gardened. With the encouragement of staff and because she was in a Green House home, Ota was able to once again take up gardening … This act of planting and caring for flowers helped change Ota’s life,” Sullivan said.
“These stories of transformation are common among Green House residents,” he added.
Hojlo praised Lovell FHCC leaders for having the courage to implement a “vision that was outside the norm, outside the current world view. It embraces the human being we are serving, at the very center of care. You will serve them in their home.”
Burke said she’s already packing and anticipating her move to a Green House home this winter. She downsized once before when she had to give up her Lake Villa home after she suffered a heart attack. She recovered but still has high blood pressure symptoms that make it impossible for her to live on her own.
“Where I live now is an institution,” she said. “After I move, there will be no more long corridors, no linen carts, medicine trays and stuff sitting in the halls … The Green House doesn’t look or feel like an institution. It’s in a subdivision; it’s like a home.”
Each home cost approximately $3 million to build and will house 10 residents. The homes feature private bedrooms and bathrooms and a communal living room, den and open kitchen with a table large enough for all the residents to sit around. Two “universal workers” will be on duty at all times. The workers provide patient care, cook, do some light housekeeping and help with resident activities.
The Green House model allows residents to live as autonomous as possible, giving them choices including what they want to eat and when. Residents will have input on daily menus, and the food will be prepared in the home.
“With these homes, we are building choices,” Sullivan said during his remarks. “These homes are symbols of autonomy, choice and quality of life for our long-term care residents. They represent the very best in patient-centered care.”
Residents of the homes are Veterans with service-connected disabilities. Burke was badly injured when she was thrown from a jeep while on duty. Because of the accident, she was forced to get out after six years.
“I wanted to stay in. I loved the service,” she said. She joined the Women’s Army Corps in 1942, at the age of 19, because “there was a war going on, and I wanted to do something for my country.” A native of the Bronx at the time, she said she tried first to work at a defense factory. “They told me I wasn’t tough enough, so I joined the Army.”
Once she enlisted, she was assigned as a medical technician because she had a year of student nursing experience. “There would be one nurse for several wards, so I would take care of a whole ward myself at night, giving shots and medications and checking vitals,” she remembered. “But mostly I consoled them, especially the guys from overseas. They needed support mentally and emotionally. They had been through Hell.”
Lovell FHCC is the second medical facility in the Department of Veterans Affairs to open Green House homes. The first one opened at the VA medical center in Danville, Ill., part of the Illiana Health Care System. To date, the Green House Project has developed 135 homes in 21 states. Up to six homes will be built at Lovell FHCC.