I read a great article in the Wallstreet Journal this morning by LUCETTE LAGNADO

She writes about a $300,000 grant that has jump-started a new trend in elder care. “In the spring of 2001, Bill Thomas, dressed in his usual sweat shirt and Birkenstock sandals, entered the buttoned-down halls of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. His message: Nursing homes need to be taken out of business. “It’s time to turn out the lights,” he declared.
Cautious but intrigued, foundation executives handed Dr. Thomas a modest $300,000 grant several months later. Now the country’s fourth-largest philanthropy is throwing its considerable weight behind the 48-year-old physician’s vision of “Green Houses,” an eight-year-old movement to replace large nursing homes with small, homelike facilities for 10 to 12 residents.”

The foundation is hoping that through its support, Green Houses will soon be erected in all 50 states, up from the 41 Green Houses now in 10 states.
“We want to transform a broken system of care,” says Jane Isaacs Lowe, who oversees the foundation’s “Vulnerable Populations portfolio.” “I don’t want to be in a wheelchair in a hallway when I am 85.”

How does the nursing home industry feel about this? Can’t make millions of dollars with small buildings and only 12 patients, can you?

Susan Feeney, a spokesperson for the American Health Care Association, which represents thousands of for-profit and not-for-profit nursing homes, says the criticisms levied against the industry by Dr. Thomas and his supporters are “overly harsh.” She says many nursing homes are embracing cultural changes to create a more homelike feel. “While it may not be scrapping a large building…we are changing,” she says.

Ok – homelike feel is good, but what about better care? One on one supervision? She is missing the point if you ask me.

“Robert Wood Johnson is making an important investment to try to make sure there is a sufficient cadre of early adopters of the Green House model — and research to make sure the model is actually working,” says Thomas Hamilton, who oversees nursing-home quality and regulatory issues for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. He says his agency is trying to coax nursing homes into changing their cultures and adopting more humane, “patient-centered” models such as the Green House.

“Perhaps the most significant hurdle to Green Houses is the perception that they are too expensive. “The biggest criticism I hear is, ‘How do you make it work financially?'” says Mr. Minnix, whose association represents not-for-profit nursing homes as well as assisted-living and retirement communities.”

Really – is that still our concern for elder care? Whether it is profitable…?

Sad, very sad. Good luck GREEN HOUSES. I will reserve my spot now for the year 2080.

Lauren Ellerman
Lauren Ellerman

In 2011, Lauren Ellerman was named "Young Lawyer of the Year" by the Roanoke Bar Association for her work in the community. To speak with Lauren about your personal injury case, contact her at