As a child, Lori Long naturally felt at home with her elders. “I love senior adults. They are amazing mentors, and I love to hear their history,” says Long. Long and her family built and operated Greenbrier Village, a facility offering five levels of care to senior adults for over fifty years. Long’s parents first invested their time, resources, and love. “It is hard to describe the respect and admiration I feel for all the older people I have known over the past 50 years,” says Long.

Since the 1980s, federal regulations have required long-term care facilities to follow a rigid medical model. However, 20 years ago, that model began to shift. A culture change took place, allowing a more “choice-based” model. Long knew Greenbrier needed to create a system based on choice, a system where residents feel at home. “So, we started learning just who our residents are,” notes Long. “What they want. When they like to get up. What they like to eat, or how they celebrate things like birthdays or holidays.”

Long knew from experience and years teaching administrators and social service directors that she needed to be smart about creating an organizational model to maintain the home. The Welcome Home Project was her answer. “Just like building a house, there is a foundation first,” explains Long. “Then the walls go up, etc. The same is true with The Welcome Home organizational guide. There has to be a commitment that everything we do falls under the umbrella of creating ‘home.’ Each of us is part of a designated home, and no matter the job, we are all homemakers. The home’s foundation has a rhythm that allows each organization to maintain the home through daily, weekly, or monthly processes. These processes already exist, but now it is with the vision of home.”

The overarching goal of the Welcome Home Project is to maintain the home through the management structure, policies for quality care, the physical environment, and daily activities. This is done by creating a home environment and routine in a non-restrictive setting. The Welcome Home Project provides different processes to organize the work on the homes to avoid being a “medical institution” and instead promote the comforts of home.

In the years since they implemented the project, the Homes of Greenbrier created a real home for their residents. It is a home that includes privacy, interpersonal warmth, stimulating opportunities for personal development, and encouragement to contribute to the development of others. It also fosters a strong commitment between residents and staff members. From their first day, the Residents’ are treated as valued members of the home.

At Greenbrier, several dedicated staff members greet residents. Traditional institutional titles now include descriptors like mentor, nurse leader, life-enrichment guide, and environmental mentor, all in the resident’s selected home. Residents decorate their rooms to their liking and make their space personal and familiar to them. They can schedule their own activities, such as reading a book in the community living area, taking a nap in their room, playing board games with other residents, or building and painting a model car. In addition, Welcome Home maintains that home-like foundation with weekly “Learning Circles”. At these circles staff and other residents meet to allow new residents or staff to introduce themselves to others, share input on group decisions, and discuss ideas about daily activities and other life enrichment opportunities.

“Last but most important are the amazing staff that work at Greenbrier Village,” notes Long, “They are the true heroes who have a calling to work with residents. In getting ready to launch the program, I asked Certified Nurse Assistants, Nurses, and all categories of staff, ‘Would you want to go back and work without Welcome Home?’ It was unanimous, ‘No!’. The staff and the residents love the Welcome Home Project!”