Dr. Bill Thomas is, unquestionably, a revered pioneer in changing the culture of long term care. His seminal organization, the Eden Alternative, has educated thousands of nursing home leaders and workers in the principles of person-centered care. His creation and development of the Green House concept radically changed the architecture and the delivery of care of a licensed nursing home.
For the last several years Dr. Thomas has defined himself as a “nursing home abolitionist”. Personally, I do not like this moniker since the word “abolitionist” denotes images of the dark history of slavery in America. While institutional nursing homes were (and are) dehumanizing and alienating, I would hesitate to conjure up the horrific image of slavery.
Respectfully, the Eden Alternative has educated many nursing home professionals dedicated to achieving a higher level of quality of life to the residents of their homes. I would suggest, however, that great outcomes can be obtained in a 30-year-old nursing home just as often as poor outcomes can occur in a Green House community. It’s all about consciousness and leadership.
“Nursing home abolitionists” is certainly an attention grabbing phrase, though imbued with hyperbole and, in my opinion, denigrating to both the compassion of nursing home professionals making a difference and the lives of nursing home residents. I sincerely hope Dr. Thomas will come up with a more appropriate identity for the person-centered care movement.