The Concept of Home

“It is not home-like. It is not family-like. It is a real home and genuine family.” — Lori Long.

To understand The Welcome Home Project, you must first purge all preconceived notions of what nursing homes used to be: regimented atmospheres focused on medical needs. Today, the residents of The Welcome Home Project thrive on choice.

For Greenbrier, the shift from facility to home started with a year of research. A charter steering committee identified and implemented the needed changes. From the research, they created a training program. Each of these three steps was integral to the creation of the program.

The decision made was to start with food.

In 2005, The Homes of Greenbrier in Enid, Ok, opened the Rose Garden Café. The change transformed their cafeteria into a restaurant-like atmosphere. Residents could choose what they wanted to eat and when they wanted to eat it. “Before Welcome Home, we herded them all up, herded them in for breakfast. They did not have a choice. They did not have a menu,” recalls Rhea Donna, Life Enrichment Director at the Homes of Greenbrier. “It took a shift in mindset,” explains Syd Smith, the registered Dietician at Greenbrier. Smith has worked at Greenbrier for 35 years. “We had to retrain our minds to think of a restaurant kitchen rather than a facility kitchen. That took some time, but once our cooks got the system down, giving choices as far as the food goes eliminated much dissatisfaction.”

The café program quickly expanded, and The Four Seasons Cafe at Greenbrier’s Assisted Living and The Burgundy Café at their Apartments opened. Jim Thorpe, who worked at Greenbrier for more than 30 years, notes, “As an administrator here during that time, the largest complaint I had was the food. Once we went to the café where people could order and get what they wanted and take the time to eat what they wanted, my complaints went down drastically. A year after we were in, I can tell you that if I had one complaint a month, it was amazing.”

The success of the cafés prompted more change as Residents began to choose activities and outings. The Welcome Home Project began to take shape and evolve. “Introducing the Welcome Home concept caused everyone to take off their institutional cap and put on their creative thinking cap,” states Mike Weatherford, Marking Coordinator, and Family Guide at Greenbrier, “It started slow and then just exploded throughout the whole facility.”

The Welcome Home Project ensures there is a staff solely dedicated to life enrichment. Using a “Learning Circle” conducted regularly, staff work with residents to plan birthday parties, holidays, and trips. “That is how we become a family, through eating together, celebrating together, doing ‘life’ together,” explains Long. “Our residents are people. They are somebody’s mom, daughter, sister, grandparent,” explains Katie Cerezo, Administrator at Greenbrier. “We are building relationships with them and making their life meaningful. We have our jobs, we have things we have to do every day, and there might be things in that job that are not glamourous, but at the end of the day, the other part of our job is to build relationships and know you made a difference. We are people taking care of people!”

People see a difference in what they are doing there. They feel the difference.

The Welcome Home Project ensures there is a staff solely dedicated to life enrichment. Using a “Learning Circle” conducted regularly, staff work with residents to plan birthday parties, holidays, and trips. “That is how we become a family, through eating together, celebrating together, doing ‘life’ together,” explains Long. “Our residents are people. They are somebody’s mom, daughter, sister, grandparent,” explains Katie Cerezo, Administrator at Greenbrier. “We are building relationships with them and making their life meaningful. We have our jobs, we have things we have to do every day, and there might be things in that job that are not glamourous, but at the end of the day, the other part of our job is to build relationships and know you made a difference. We are people taking care of people!”

People see a difference in what they are doing there. They feel the difference.

The Welcome Home Project
Emphasizing Life Enrichment