Modeling a new kind of care

Small Houses celebrate first anniversary

Hazel at the picnic

Hazel, a small house resident, enjoys this summer’s all-campus picnic.

HOMER GLEN, Ill. (February 2016) — The small houses at Victorian Village Health & Wellness Center mark their first anniversaries this year— the first residents moved in to Hope House on Feb. 2, 2015, and Faith House opened its doors a month later.

In their first year of operation, residents and staff alike are adjusting to challenges and enjoying their unique skilled nursing setting.

“We’re still learning and growing,” said Deb Brandy, Life Enrichment Director at the Health & Wellness Center.

The houses certainly don’t look or operate like the stereotypical nursing home. The architecture features short hallways, private bedrooms, and an open kitchen. That set-up is making it easier for Janina to get out of her wheelchair and use a walker to get around.

In one house, magazines lay by the fireplace, a decades-old wedding photo adorns the bookshelf in the library, and CDs are stacked up on the end table in the living room — mostly hymns, except for one album of love songs by Elvis. There’s also an iPad for playing games, videos, and music.


Small house residents celebrate New Year’s Eve.

Residents can wake up and go to sleep when they want — Hope House residents tend to rise early and rest in the afternoon; at Faith House, they sleep in and spend the afternoon socializing. They plan their own activities — their New Year’s Eve party was complete with shrimp, cheesecake, sparkling grape juice, and party hats. Each day and night, they are served by the same staff members. Care Partners who have moved over to the rehab building still visit the house where they started — they miss seeing the residents, and the residents miss them.

But these homes still provide skilled nursing care, and the staff has to follow the state regulations that guide it. This mostly comes into play in the kitchen, where family-style meals have to meet dietary standards. This has been the biggest challenge for the staff.

“It’s so much more than just cooking,” said Danette Boros, Program Coordinator at the Health & Wellness Center. “You have to think about sanitation, dietary needs and state regulations; Care Partners attend a ServSafe training class to help them understand and follow sanitary guidelines— plus, there is still the actual cooking for 10 people.”

The small house staff gets resident input where they can: in flavors of ice cream and soup, and in which dessert recipes they should try — they’ve made Viola’s Strawberry Jello Pretzel Salad and Hazel’s Chocolate Cake Squares with frosting, among others.

LaVerne arranges flowers.

LaVerne helps with the fall flower arrangements in the house.

Even though it provides some challenges to the Small House ideal, the kitchen table is also where the houses live up to their fullest potential.

“Everything happens at the kitchen table,” Deb said.

It’s where relationships were first formed: “At the beginning, we tried to do group things to get to know each other,” Deb said. “But it had to happen at their pace, and usually around the kitchen table, when they were just talking.”

And it’s where relationships are now strengthened. After lunch each day, a group of residents stays at the table all afternoon — talking, laughing, planning parties and activities for the house.

“It’s the true small house model,” Danette said.


Do you have a loved one in need of skilled nursing care, or know someone who will require rehabilitation after a hospital stay? Check out the Small Houses at Victorian Village! Call (708) 590-5050 or email us at to schedule a tour.


Read more about the Small Houses:

First residents move in to Small House

Victorian Village hosts ribbon-cutting 


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