"Rehabilitation is not just about making people better for communities. It is also about making communities better for people."

- Dr. William O’Dowd


Here, we discuss what must be done to reorganize a nursing home into communities, one of the key concepts in the larger scope of culture change.

Northern Pines: Community

Hubert H. Humphrey once said that ultimately a society will be judged by the care given to the very young, very old and to those struggling with disabilities and challenges. We are building a Community to support our elders and those with handicaps. A physician working with TBI, William O'Dowd, put the concept another way when he said, "We might well judge our society not by the types of services it offers or the amount of money it spends, but rather by the number of viable identities it makes available for its citizens. Before their challenges of injury or age, people fit easily into the community. After, they often describe feeling isolated, misunderstood and angry. We need to build communities which offer opportunities for all of us to contribute through our abilities and to share through our capacities to love. Ultimately, this is what we all want, whether we have had injuries or come by our particular limitations less dramatically. Rehabilitation is not just about making people better for communities. It is also about making communities better for people."


Although the focus of each of the three communities of Northern Pines is different, it is important to note somethings they hold in common. Consistency in staffing is the most important commonality. Our frail elders are more comfortable when assisted by familiar caregivers sensitive to the particular needs and desires of each. In our communities, consistent staffing is a comforting fact of life for our elders. Also important is the fact that staff members are not defined by rigid titles or job descriptions. Of course medically trained personnel will deliver health care, but they will also fulfill other functions. Caregiving, housekeeping, cooking, visiting and more of life's regular activities are everyone's job and everyone's joy. After all, in our own families and communities we share the work and the fun of daily life, why wouldn't we do the same in our extended family here? But just like at home, our elder's need for privacy in a homelike environment is respected. Homelike rooms with personal furnishings and treasures, magazines and comfortable furniture groupings are common in our communities. And all communities are committed to the Eden Principles in all facets of life. Each community is continually working to provide a human habitat for the residents. Loneliness, helplessness and boredom are being banished in this homelike environment inhabited by elders and frequented by youngsters, lively with plants and animals and staffed with caregivers who understand that variety and spontaneity make life worth living.


All in the community are enriched by the fellowship of the community. People united in a purpose, getting together and enjoying each other, the spirit of staff, elders and families, brought together by the like concerns of the community, is fellowship in the true meaning of the word. We see its impact daily: a resident sleeping on the sofa in the living room, touched by sunlight, who says "just like home" when he awakes. Fresh blueberry pancakes one Sunday morning and Belgian waffles the next, cooked on an iron brought from home. A daughter who describes her mother's new interest in life and living as, "just like a phoenix rising from the ashes". We believe it is fellowship in the true sense of the Greek origin, 'phileo', the love that draws people together in purpose.


"Affirmation" from That All May Worship by the National Organization on Disability, expresses this thought well in a prayer, excerpted here: "...As God's creations, we are fashioned uniquely, each endowed with individuality of body, mind and spirit... Each of us has abilities; each seeks fulfillment and wholeness. Each of us has disabilities; each knows isolation and incompleteness. Seeking shelter from the vulnerability we all share... by affirmation and life, hope and joy, we celebrate and serve one another, rejoicing in our diversity, we transform and serve the world, until we become a Community which reflects God's Oneness and Peace." Our vision is that Northern Pines be that Community.

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Contact LaVrene Norton

at 414.258.3649

or Steve Shields

at 785.313.4059




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