Several years ago, the New York Times reported on the Green House Project, which purports to be a new sort of nursing home. Now with nearly 300 licensed homes in 28 states, it’s based on small residences, consistent assignment of aides to residents, and greater flexibility in meeting residents’ preferences for, e.g., when and what they eat and drink. It comes at the cost of higher-than-average monthly bills for residents and/or insurers, but claims better outcomes and significantly lower costs to Medicare.
All of which would certainly make the Green House model worth investigating for anyone seeking a nursing home for himself or a loved one.
But hold on a moment. Yes indeed, the Green House model seems to address a number of circumstantial, mental and emotional issues (although except for the small residences, I don't see that they offer anything that's not offered by the nursing homes I'm most familiar with). But aren’t human beings more than the sum of their circumstances, minds and emotions? Are we not also spiritual beings – in fact, primarily so?
For more than 25 years, I have witnessed first-hand the positive impact that ardently Christian activities and staff can have on nursing home residents. As I observed several years ago, “Whatever their individual circumstances might be, Christians in long-term care seem to be happier than non-Christians in long-term care.”
My question then: “If this is true, shouldn’t all nursing homes put some major emphasis on feeding the spirit? At least as much as they do, say, entertaining those in their care, and reminding them of the good ol’ gone-but-not-forgotten days?”
To which I now add: “Shouldn’t all nursing homes put as much emphasis on feeding the spirit as they do catering to residents’ dining preferences and physical surroundings?”
I don’t have any fancy studies to support my observations; I still can’t seem to find any researchers who’ve examined the impact of Christian ministry on the elderly. (I’d love to be wrong about this. If you have evidence to the contrary, please send it to me!)
Perhaps the Green House Project does feed the spirit with eternal truth. I certainly hope that this is the case, and that the subject wasn't mentioned by the New York Times or on the Project's website simply because the responsible writers aren't much interested in the subject, or don't feel it's pertinent.
But I do hope that you are interested, and that if you’re looking for a nursing home for yourself, or for a beloved parent, grandparent, spouse, sibling or child, you will put spiritual things at the top of your list of evaluation criteria.
If you do, your loved one may be grateful not only for the remainder of this life, but quite possibly for all eternity.