A Better Kind of Nursing Home

Lots of things look different when you step into a small Green House nursing home.

The bright living and dining space, filled with holiday baubles at this season. The adjacent open kitchen, where the staff is making lunch. The private bedrooms and baths. The lack of long stark corridors, medication carts and other reminders of hospital wards.

I was visiting the Green House Homes at Green Hill, a continuing care facility in West Orange, N.J. Dorothy Bagli, who’s 91, showed me her room, looking out onto the garden and filled with artwork from home and photos of her grandchildren. (Her son, it turned out, is a reporter at The Times.)

“I’ve gotten to know most of the people that live here,” she said — an easier task when there are only 10 residents.

“It’s very intimate,” agreed Eleanor Leonardis, who declined to give her age and is recuperating from a nasty fall. “It feels a lot like home.”

 But the thing that struck me most was a man sitting alone at the communal table, having his breakfast oatmeal — at noon. The staff knows that he doesn’t like getting up or eating early in the day.

At conventional nursing homes, aides have to hustle residents out of bed, help them dress, escort them to the dining room by whatever time breakfast is served, and then perhaps whisk them off for physical therapy. These facilities struggle to provide even a smidgen of personal autonomy.

 – New York Times