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The Gerontologist 46:533-539 (2006)
© 2006 The Gerontological Society of America

Radical Redesign of Nursing Homes: Applying the Green House Concept in Tupelo, Mississippi

Judith Rabig, RN, MA1, William Thomas, MD2, Rosalie A. Kane, PhD3, Lois J. Cutler, PhD3 and Steve McAlilly, JD4

Correspondence: Address correspondence to Judith Rabig, RN, MA, Jude Rabig Consulting, 251 East 77th Street, New York, NY 10021. E-mail: jrabig{at}

Purpose: We present the concept of the Green House, articulated by William Thomas as a radically changed, "deinstitutionalized" nursing home well before its first implementation, and we describe and discuss implications from the first Green Houses in Tupelo, Mississippi. Design and Methods: Green Houses are small, self-contained houses for 10 or fewer elders, each with private rooms and full bathrooms and sharing family-style communal space, including hearth, dining area, and full kitchen. Line staff at the level of certified nursing assistants, called Shahbazim, are "universal workers," who cook meals, do laundry, provide personal care, assist with habilitation, and promote the elders' quality of life. Nurses, doctors, and other professionals comprise a visiting clinical support team for the residents and Shahbazim. Multiple Green Houses comprise a nursing home, meeting all nursing facility regulations and working within state-reimbursement levels. In 2003, four Green Houses were built on the campus of a retirement community; in June of that year, 40 residents relocated from the 140-bed nursing home to the Green Houses, including 20 residents previously living in the locked dementia unit. Results: Experiences to date are positive for residents, family, and staff. The sponsor is converting the entire facility to Green Houses, and other providers around the country plan to implement Green House variants. Implications: Because nursing home stock is aging, many physical plants are or soon will be slated for major rebuilding, thereby providing sponsors with an opportunity to consider Green Houses. Early experience suggests that Green Houses are feasible and that outcomes are likely to be positive, and it also suggests that there are some potential issues to overcome in such a dramatic reengineering of nursing homes.

Key Words: Deinstitutionalization • Design • Habilitation • Nursing facilities • Quality of life

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Copyright © 2006 by The Gerontological Society of America.