First in Illinois: residents move into Small House


Viola Van Dam, the first resident at Victorian Village Health & Wellness Center, poses with family and staff members outside her new room.

HOMER GLEN, Ill. (February 2015) — The first Small House residents in the state of Illinois received a celebrity’s welcome at Victorian Village Health & Wellness Center on Monday, Feb. 2.

Viola Van Dam, 94, and Della Riley, 90, moved into the newly-opened skilled nursing home yesterday morning, in a celebration complete with ribbon-cutting, welcome poems, and cake.

It was an important moment in senior living — the women will be receiving innovative care in a unique setting, and are the first in the state to do so — but according to Administrator Dave Tiemersma, this welcome is something that all Small House residents can expect.

Viola Van Dam, left, and Della Riley, each had a ribbon cutting for their new rooms at Victorian Village Health and Wellness Center.

Viola Van Dam, left, and Della Riley, each had a ribbon cutting for their new rooms at Victorian Village Health and Wellness Center.

“We will have a welcome for each of our new residents, as that is part of the Small House model,” he said.

Small Houses, which are similar to what is called the Green House Project, are revolutionizing the traditional nursing home model — they are designed like a home, not an institution.

The Health & Wellness Center, on the Victorian Village campus in Homer Glen, consists of three home-like buildings that will serve up to 50 total people with skilled nursing, rehab, and memory care needs. They are centered on a large, open kitchen, which will feature family-style meals. Each of the residents has her own private bedroom and bathroom. The homes also include community rooms, a laundry room, a spa, and patios.

A smaller space means more people will be able to navigate the home without assistance, and personalized schedules mean that residents choose their own wake up time, meals, and activities, giving them greater independence, freedom, and dignity.

“We believe this is the future of nursing home care in our country,” said Providence CEO Richard C. Schutt.

Both women who moved in were familiar with Victorian Village already — Viola lived for eight years in the townhomes on campus, and Della received assisted living care at the Grand Victorian for about a year. However, both had skilled nursing needs that eventually forced them off campus.

“It’s really neat to welcome them back home,” Victorian Village administrator Dave Tiemersma said. “This campus is now somewhere residents can stay, regardless of what services they need.”

Viola gets a tour of the home.

Viola gets a tour of the home.

Viola cut the ribbon to her new room around 11 a.m., and had time to admire her new, sunny space, take a tour of the rest of the house, and have lunch with staff before Della arrived about an hour later for her own ribbon-cutting ceremony.

For the residents and for their families, the opening of the Small Houses provides a new level of relief.

“As you can see, we’re here the first day we possible can be,” said Bill Van Dam, Viola’s son. “We’ve been hoping and praying to be here for a long time.”

As a nurse practitioner, Bill’s sister Karen Krooswyk has a clinical understanding of the care her mother needs, and the confidence that she will be taken well care of at VVHWC.

“My anxiety level just dropped,” she said. “I can’t take care of Mom anymore, but I wanted her in a home-like setting, and to her, this is home. I think this is great, the whole concept of this place.”

Viola herself is looking forward to the improvement she’ll experience over the last nursing home she lived in.

“Sometimes I waited over an hour for a CNA,” she said. “And you never know what kind of roommate you’re going to get — it was always a double room.”

But she wasn’t expecting the fanfare surrounding her arrival at the Small House.

“It’s kind of exciting (to be first),” she said.

And as exciting as it is for the residents and their families, the long-awaited opening was just as thrilling for the staff.

“This is definitely a culmination of a ton of work and details, and it’s gratifying to get to this point in time,” administrator Dave Tiemersma said. “We’ve had a lot of interest from families who are so thankful to see this model finally coming — it’s nice to have that kind of reinforcement and support.”

Like Bill and Karen, John Riley and his wife, Linda, were excited to finally bring their mother to the Small Houses.

“We love that it’s only 10 people; it doesn’t feel like a hospital; and it’s much closer to home,” said John, a Homer Glen resident.

“It’s cool, very exciting (to be the first ones in),” Linda added.

Della takes a photo outside her room with her son and daughter-in-law, John and Linda Riley, and VVHWC staff.

Della takes a photo outside her room with her son and daughter-in-law, John and Linda Riley, and VVHWC staff.

Moving family into a Providence facility was nothing new for Linda, whose great-grandmother lived in the first Holland Home in Roseland, and whose grandmothers lived in Holland Home in South Holland and Village Woods in Crete. It was the third Providence move-in for her mother-in-law, who lived in the Victorian Inn and at Providence Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center before arriving at the Health & Wellness Center this week.

“When it’s our time, we won’t have far to go — just down the street!” John said.

But for now, Della will enjoy her new surroundings.

“I like (the home) — it’s really exciting,” she said. “I didn’t know I’d be first.”

After she got a chance to cut the ribbon and check out her room, the family and some of the staff members gathered for a photo, another surprise for Della.

“You’d think I was a celebrity!”

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  1. Cherie Noisette

    We need to move my mother from a facility to a new facility. Her insurance is declining coverage, but she is not ready nor able to go home and needs additional rehab. We will be paying out of pocket. She is being discharged on 5/30, so we need to move rather quickly on her placement. Please call me.

    1. Alexandra Shloss Post author

      Hi Cherie, thanks for contacting us. Have you found a place for your mother? If not, please call me (Alex) at 708-342-8187.


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