Grieving takes its course

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Jill Gilbert
Jill Gilbert
This month we continue our discussion with Joyce Ebmeier of Tabitha Health Care Services. A 
25-year veteran of the nursing home industry, Ebmeier talked about the social benefits of the Green House and a phenomenon she calls the “Green House Creep,” explaining how the model of care is leading to positive change at Tabitha's 205-bed traditional nursing home, affectionately known as “the mothership.”

Mary's story

To many, the social benefits of a Green House are undeniable. Living in a smaller community operating under its own set of rules makes for a happy household. When Mary, one of the first elders to move into the Green House, celebrated her 101st birthday, the staff asked her what she wanted. Ebmeier sounds wistful when she recalls, “Mary and her daughter sitting on the porch enjoying a margarita and a cigarette.” This year on her birthday, everyone gathered on the porch and had margaritas to honor her memory. 

Community before business 

It always is painful to lose someone you love, but Ebmeier says in the Green House it is “that intense and more. [Death] impacts the dynamics acutely.” 

After the first death in the Green House, Tabitha staff acted to fill the spot. The residents and staff of the Green House pushed back, saying they “had not grieved enough yet” and needed more time. 
Tabitha's administration agreed, writing a policy for the Green House, outlining the steps to be taken when an elder died, in order to allow time for everyone to grieve properly. 

Collaborative change

Tabitha's administration worked with the community to develop guidelines and a timeframe that worked. Ebmeier describes the policy as “an opportunity to honor that member of the household.” After the initial grieving period, staff members and residents will welcome the newest member to the Green House. 

The outcome has had a profound effect on the mothership as well. Its staff and residents quickly developed their own policy so that they, too, could grieve for neighbors and friends who had died.  n
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