Within a stone’s throw from the hustle and bustle of Route 128, a revolutionary new way to provide elder care is quietly making a difference in the town of Westwood. From the outside, the White Oak Cottages may look like ordinary, modern family homes with lots of windows and skylights but what’s going on inside is anything but ordinary. Their mission is to de-institutionalize long-term care by providing a real home like environment for those with Alzheimer’s, Dementia and other cognitive impairments.
As with most homes, the kitchen is the heart of the family and the same can be said of the White Oak Cottages. Situated in the center of a spacious, inviting living room, the kitchen area is the epicenter for the elders. It’s where they socialize and participate with the daily tasks in the household to help them maintain a sense of purpose and a normal daily rhythm. Residents may set the table, tend to the garden, sweep the walk, or help cook up an old family recipe. Their engagement gives them a role and makes them truly a part of this new home.
“It’s a completely new way of thinking about long-term elder care. It’s the difference between walking into a place where you say ‘I wouldn’t want to live in a place like this’ to walking into White Oaks and experiencing a warm, homey environment where you can smell the food cooking and saying ‘I wouldn’t mind living here or having my parents live here,” observed White Oak Cottages Guide, Christopher Warner.
In traditional health care facilities, elders are expected to adjust their daily patterns based on the schedules of the facility health care team. Instead of asking the residents to give up their personal patterns, White Oak staff members adjust their schedules to accommodate the preferences and daily rhythms of the residents. Giving each person choices and this type of flexibility inevitably helps improve the residents overall mood and helps prevent the depression so common in patients who need memory support.
Based on the innovative Green House Project model, The White Oak Cottages is leading the charge for transforming memory support care in Massachusetts. Mr. Warner hopes that this model will become the standard for all traditional nursing homes. As the baby boomer generation ages, Alzheimer’s and Dementia will impact a larger percentage of the population creating a greater demand for nursing care facilities. With the upcoming onslaught of the so-called “Silver Tsunami", this new generation of seniors will demand more meaningful care than their depression era parents.
Some other notable differences to the White Oak Cottages from traditional facilities are:
• There are no long hallways or elevators. All bedrooms are just off the common living area, making it easier for Residents to move independently within the home.
• The cottage is flooded with natural light from the banks of windows in the living areas, the bay windows in each bedroom and the five skylights. Electrical lighting design ensures ample lighting at night as well.
• An enclosed garden and terrace allows Residents to enjoy nature and go outside freely in good weather.
• The staff paging system uses text messages, not bells or lights, to maintain a peaceful atmosphere.
• The fabrics, artwork, and color schemes account for the visual and spatial deficits of those with dementia, and provide gentle cueing.
• The interior and garden areas have circular traffic patterns to allow Residents to wander without the need for staff redirection.
• Resident appetites are stimulated by the sounds, smells and sights of food being cooked right in front of them
• Families are a welcome addition to the daily life in the cottage. They are encouraged to come for lunch or dinner, or to join in with whatever the Residents are doing and even stay over in some instances.
For more information about The White Oak Cottages
www.whiteoakcottages.com or The Green House Project visit www.thegreenhouseproject.org
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