Area Agency on Aging: Will smaller care homes prevail in the future?

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By Kay Kaylor
PREVIEW Columnist

I advocate for residents in extended care and assisted living residences as the region’s lead long-term care ombudsman. I also am a Senior Medicare Patrol and State Health Insurance Assistance Program counselor, all as an employee of San Juan Basin Area Agency on Aging (SJBAAA). Information on the many aging and care concerns will be included here.

As national and state teams discuss and determine how to allow visitation at long-term care facilities during the pandemic, especially for families, the aging care industry is learning new ways to operate. In the process of adapting, ideas of what will work well for future care homes are proposed in newsletters such as “Senior Housing News” (SHN).

In a June 3 article titled “‘Smaller is Better’: Covid-19 Primes Senior Living for Rise of Small-House Models,” by Tim Regan, The Green House Project is one of the small-house examples featured. The nonprofit provider was founded in 2001 by Dr. Bill Thomas with support from a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The idea of offering small long-term care homes for 10 to 12 residents is not new, but rarer for skilled nursing homes. The Green House Project has continued to expand throughout the country using the small-home and other concepts, with about 80 percent of its homes licensed for skilled care (compared to assisted living). According to its website, the two in Colorado are in Loveland and Akron. 

A few benefits of small houses for fighting infection described in the SHN include smaller areas to control, a ratio of more staff to residents to build relationships and monitor care, staff trained in a range of care duties, and less disruption for residents when following prevention practices.

In a video tour of one of the Green House homes, an open kitchen with a counter and stools for residents and a large living area with skylights are centralized. Residents eat together at a long table and have their own room and bathroom. In the private room shown, an overhead track lift is above the bed and the bathroom has a roll-in shower. A locked wooden medicine cabinet is in the room entry. With no nursing station, the “homelike” atmosphere combines with the model of engaging residents in a variety of activities.

SJBAAA offers resources for people age 60 and older or on Medicare. For further information, please call or text 403-2165 or send an email to leadombudsman@sjbaaa.org.