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Life as a Shahbaz in the GREEN HOUSE® Residences

Life as a Shahbaz in the GREEN HOUSE® Residences

By: Lee McDonald, Shahbaz    

Working in the medical field, I've had the opportunity to meet many different people and do many different jobs. By far, my most rewarding job has been working in the Brooks Rehabilitation GREEN HOUSE® Residences. Here, I've had the privilege to meet and take care of some of the best people in the world. Not only do I get to care for them, but I have the opportunity to truly get to know them and their families.

In most assisted living facilities and nursing homes, certified nursing assistants (CNAs) rarely get to know their patients. They have 10 to 16 patients depending on where they work. Each day is a rush to get everyone dressed, fed and toileted. Once that’s complete, the CNAs start the process all over again by serving lunch to everyone.

At the Brooks GREEN HOUSE® Residences, we follow a completely different nationally recognized care model designed to look and feel like a real home. There are only 12 residents, or Elders as they are called here, in each home with three CNAs. Our Elders are given the freedom to set their own routines.  They are allowed to start their day at a time of their choosing. They have choices regarding what they would like to eat and about their activities. 

In my role, I am called a Shahbaz, a name created by the national Green House Project. We Shahbazim (the plural of Shahbaz) have the opportunity to sit and read, play games and go on walks with our Elders. As an avid book reader, I started a book club in our Green House. I also enjoy reading magazines, the newspaper and the Bible to our Elders.

One of my favorite games to play with them is table ball toss. This is where all the Elders sit around the table and one hits a blow up beach ball down the table to another. The goal is to see how many hits they can get before the ball falls to the floor. Our Elders love it and yes, they can be very competitive! 

People often ask me exactly what I do. The easiest way to describe it is I am like a house parent. I take care of our Elders and try to meet their needs the way a parent would. I cook, I clean and I do laundry. I order supplies. I schedule outings and go with them to doctors appointments.

Our team of Shahbazim cook breakfast, lunch and dinner, but we also get the opportunity to sit and eat with the Elders. This gives us the chance to bond as a “family.” We encourage them to eat, while we have conversations with the Elders and sometimes their families. It is designed to feel like a regular family meal.

I learn the Elders favorite colors and favorite foods. I enjoy getting to know them and learning what their lives were like before they came to us.

The people that come to live at the Green House are not just patients. They become our friends and part of our family, part of our hearts. I listen to them. I hold their hands when they cry and I cheer with them when they accomplish something they have been working on. It's my privilege to celebrate birthdays with our Elders and their families.

I am blessed to help them live the fullest life they can - for as long as they can. Each Elder leaves their mark on the Green House in one way or another. I help their mark live on, not only in the Green House, but also in my heart.


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