Garden Spot Village
... the Household Model provides residents to continue to practice hospitality in a way that is not artificial.”
Strong community ties and gracious hospitality is as natural as the surrounding countryside for folks in Lancaster County, PA. So it was no surprise that when “Mr. Simms” approached his final days, his granddaughter used his recipes to prepare a special meal in his honor and to celebrate one last time together with family and friends.
Of greater note was the venue for the event; it was held in the household of the nursing home where Mr. Simms lived in Garden Spot Village, a continuing care retirement community near the small town of New Holland. The granddaughter and other family members worked side-by-side with homemaker staff in the household kitchen to prepare the dinner.
Such a get-together was unheard of before the old-style nursing home was converted to households five years ago. Residents never invited friends or family to share a meal, but now “it happens all the time,” says Steve Lindsey, Executive Director. “People come from a distance to have lunch or dinner in the households.”
The close relationships among elders, families, leaders and staff run “far deeper than just participating in shared household activities” and are readily apparent at Garden Spot, says Action Pact consultant Linda Bump. Stories abound of short-term rehab residents who after they recover and are ready for discharge don’t want to leave; of family members who continue to visit and volunteer even after their loved one has died; of staff members’ spouses and children who come to help or just hang out for the fun of it.
The sense of community is facilitated by the open physical environment and lack of barriers between the various levels of living. Household residents have easy access to the indoor “village square” and “main street” where they can stop at the creamery for ice cream, the café for lunch, the chapel for worship, and the independent or assisted living quarters to visit old friends, even during inclement weather.
But more important, says Lindsey, is the open invitation for people outside the nursing home to visit and participate in the life of the households, and the opportunities the Household Model provides residents “to continue to practice hospitality in a way that is not artificial.”
Everyone on campus gets the same training in PersonFirst® techniques and learning circle facilitation even if they don’t have caregiver responsibilities. Learning circles are ingrained in the households and are a very effective tool for creating community and relationships, Lindsey says.
Staff like office personnel and maintenance workers who do not have a formal role in the households, are invited to participate in household life and are given time to do so. Those who partake in household life do it exceptionally well because they feel passionate about it, says Lindsey.
He credits the organization’s model of “servant leadership” for setting the example for community involvement. Formal leaders understand their role is to facilitate, serve and remove barriers for other staff team members. “Our leaders look for opportunities to get involved, whether in preparing a meal or carrying soiled linens to the laundry chute … when you work alongside someone, it creates a much different environment than if you’re standing over them watching what they are doing,” says Lindsey. And it makes a positive impression on the elders and their family members.
Visitors quickly latch onto that norm of relationships at Garden Spot - something people yearn for in a broader society that has lost touch with the experience of genuine community, says Lindsey.
The woman who prepared the celebratory meal for her dying grandfather, Mr. Simms, was so taken by that environment that she permanently joined the Garden Spot staff as a homemaker. Now she cooks regularly for residents in the household and is a great addition to the team. Merely by visiting the household, she felt the calling of a vocation, Lindsey concludes.
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