An Eden for Elders
By Karen Ott Mayer | Photography by Wesley Meadows
Fully dedicated to memory support, the new Wesley Meadows Green House reminds residents of home.
On a sunny day in late March, construction sounds and excitement filled the air at Wesley Meadows Retirement Community in Hernando, Miss. By April, the noise had evaporated when The Margaret & Dan Maddox Green House® Home officially opened its doors. Not just another building on the campus, the new home represents a completely different care model for senior adults living with memory loss. Paired with the Eden Alternative Principles, the Green House Home Design in Hernando represents a continuation and a beginning.
“Methodist Senior Services (MSS) built the first Green House home in Tupelo in 2003; Hernando is the 22nd MSS Green House. This one, however, is only the fourth home that is fully dedicated to memory support,” says Jamie Cliett, community director of marketing and public relations.
Unlike traditional memory care units which are highly institutionalized in design and practice, the Green House concept focuses on the idea of home. All residents have a diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s.
“It connotes home, a living breathing home where residents aren’t restricted from everyday practices like eating together at one table or helping to cook,” adds Cliett.
With 10 private resident rooms circling a large open living room with hearth and kitchen, the layout and design encourage both socializing and privacy. As an Eden Alternative Registered Community, Wesley Meadows strives to create an environment that eradicates the three major conditions facing all assisted-living facilities: loneliness, helplessness, and boredom.
Going a step further, however, the lines between a staff member and resident no longer exist as barriers. If residents want to cook favorite recipes or bake cookies, they can do so just like at home. If they need guidance, a Shahbaz, or nursing staff member, provides encouragement and support.
“Instead of a traditional nursing staff role, a Shahbaz acts like a family member as well,” says Cliett. “They eat with residents and help if they need assistance. Our residents are free to pursue those household routines like cooking or vacuuming if they choose to do so. If they need guidance, the Shahbaz is there to help.”
The Maddox House also has a large glass sun porch that faces a landscaped garden area. Many residents across the Wesley Meadows campus enjoy gardening, Cliett says. “It’s fun because they barter produce and plants.” An open-air gazebo overlooks the large green scape located at the front of the property and the area around the house has been expanded.
No design detail was overlooked. From the red dinnerware plates to the open wrought iron fencing, the entire concept embraces independence and the elimination of even the slightest barrier. Cliett explains that the color red itself encourages appetite, while the wrought iron fencing offers residents a clear view without feeling enclosed or cut off.
In addition to the large living area called the hearth, the home also includes a private room with a bathtub and beauty salon. “The rooms only have showers but residents can take a bath or get their hair done in the spa if they prefer.”
Each room is painted a different cheerful color, allowing new residents to pick the room of their choice. Moreover, Cliett says that each resident’s private room door can be a replica of their door back home. “Families take a picture of their loved one’s front door at home and we then cover their door here. It’s another detail that feels familiar to them.”
Families can visit residents in their rooms or in the hearth. The Maddox House design promotes independence, meaningful engagement, and safety.
A private, non-profit organization, Wesley Meadows relies on the generosity of donors to raise funds for projects like the Green House. From the start, Hernando and DeSoto County embraced the project with The Maddox Foundation giving Wesley Meadows a matching challenge grant of $500,000 for the construction. The Skelton Foundation donated a significant gift within a short time and community donors raised the additional funds. The Assisi Foundation of Memphis also gave a grant.
Michelle Daniel, vice president of philanthropy and leadership development, spearheaded the fundraiser with the guidance of Arthur Alley Associated and has worked with Methodist Senior Services for more than five years.
“Our board of directors voted unanimously on this project because we need it here,” Daniel said. “Since this isn’t our first Green House, we’ve been able to refine the design, no matter how small, to benefit our elders.”
Daniel says a Shahbaz is like a midwife for elderhood.
“There is a relationship built on respect and to protect, sustain, and nurture one another.” Daniel says during the day, for each five residents there is one Shahbaz. “That ratio is unheard of in traditional assisted living settings.” With a longstanding and well-loved reputation in DeSoto County, Wesley Meadows has always viewed care with a holistic, intensive, Christian spirit dedicated to innovation.
Upon opening, the Maddox House welcomed seven new residents and Wesley Meadows already has an eye towards expansion. “We have 40 acres here and the need is great,” says Cliett.
Likewise, the Maddox Foundation also gave an additional $500,000 challenge grant for a maintenance endowment fund for the Green House Home, according to Daniel. “From the start, we have planned for this home to always look fresh and have the resources to keep up the maintenance, now and far into the future.”