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#101 Minka


A man takes on an impossible job: fixing the place you go before you die.

Further Info

Bill Thomas's website

Bill Thomas on Twitter

Tammy Marshall at The New Jewish Home

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
This episode is brought to you by better for him a new podcast from eighty people in each So Francesca Ramsay talks to visionaries in business leaders about mistakes. They ve made how they work their way through them and came out better for it. Listen, unspent, fi or wherever you get your podcast. This episode is brought to you by a Sana. A saga is an app designed to help teams plan, organise and execute all the work they do together. It helps you make sure nothing falls through the cracks, so you can focus on the work that matters most learn more. If we are really exciting for- and this is what it is we want August to be. The month were replay your favorite absurd to show the abattoir when you're telling semi listener apply. Are you send them to these episodes and to our opening up, here's the deal we will not be her in August. Some of us are working side are taking much deserve vacations and we're trying some
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from Burma is required and we gave out and I'm only scope and entreaties here with us. Yes, I am, what have you got have a story for you guys, and this one is about a man named bill. Thomas he's a doctor. He has this very wild story. I went up to Ithaca to meet him. That's where he lives table our yeah yeah goods is each year and he
picked me up, he was he cutter an interesting figures. Big beard tie a t, shirt shoes. I love, I usually driving their work and he rolled up in his electric car with his peace sign bumper sticker, his wife Jude was there I love to drive, he hates. It shows you my control side and the reason I have come
here to me bill is he he's sick towering figure in the world of nursing homes he's known for being the slightly incredibly creative person whose spent his life trying to make nursing homes better and now he's decided that he wants to destroy them all? Ok, so the first thing I said was maker: we go see a local nursing home, want to see what you see and he said sure
I'm not exactly welcomes I, but we could do that agenda. This one make noise. He jumps in the passenger seat, Jutes driving, I'm in the back. Ok, stop this thing when the parking lot, what your job width looking, you think we're in the parking lot of a nursing and. Deserves to go away, and I'm not even gonna, get you out, because if they see you out here with headphones on freak out to really oh, yes, yes,.
So what we have is a nineteen sixties, Europe, brick building. Ah, oh yes, that is not been changed in any substantial way. In fifty years now look here. This is an activity where looking in driving by we're looking said the window of this activity room and not be it's empty and their these, like cheesy cardboard decorations. Butter is butterfly time. There's a memorial day. Wasn't exactly memorial day. Every holiday has a ritual lized card board representation and the reason I bring, that up is because it's like that with the food and with everything inside this building, not thing is real. What he's amount about Odo here, means that basically here's a building were to everybody inside like
nobody has living here- is really unhappy, but there's always like pageantry of happiness and joy. People are compelled to inhabit rules that are totally artificial. So if I moved inherent- My the fullness of my personality would be shaved off. I'm, u, no doctor Alice author of these books. I move in there and the low ranking staff. Member has total authority over me and can make me do anything. That's true so we're in the front of this building now and when people come to live here. They go in through that door
They die. They go out through the loading door in the back. So when a person moves in here, the great likelihood is that they will never leave again. In physics, we have a name for that black hole. Bill says that this black hole. This is what Men fighting his entire life, you know he's come up with these in gene innovations and every one of them has failed and the whole process has turned them into this, like radical, desperate person, but that's not how he started back when he first got into the nursing home game? He was a young idealist It was eighteen, eighty one he'd just turned thirty. He was done with his men.
While residency and he moved too. Middle of nowhere, upstate New York, whose homes studying like building a house in raising animals and the closest place that he could get a job was a nursing home. They were looking for a medical director and bill said how her could this I brought all of my sort of turbot ye are new resident, Harvard Doktor stuffed the nursing homes. I'm running around trying to get everybody cured of everything, and there was this one full director of nursing who, like is like, can come here come into my office sat me down and just said to me you're hurting people. You know, you're, being your ordering too many tests and you're sending people for too many now x, Ray
is and settle down because he's treating everybody has a case that he can like cure. But you got old age get over here exactly and bill. He actually takes this nursing doctors advice to settle down and he starts coming to the nursing home on his days off, like one there's nothing to do, and you shows up with no book and he says he would park himself in a room and just like take notes of whatever you missing, and I shall I remembered been sitting in what used to be called the so Larry I'm which is really a room with windows in it, but sitting in the whole area. Men, ten, a m, just sit down. Mr Smith is sitting in a wheelchair across from me. Ten thirty.
Mr Smith, setting in a wheelchair crush me eleven o clock. This man was like suspended in time just waiting for the next thing to happen everywhere. The bell locked. He just saw loneliness how Was this like he'd, see a woman just waiting for someone to wield heard a lunch and she sitting there under the hum of fluorescent lights, there's no actual conversation between people and it's just the noises of a hospital like the beeping of medical devices, steady din of people calling out for instructions and commenced to each other overhead pay, Jane. I started to think of the nursing home almost as a strange kind of space ship that was travelling outside of the earthly biosphere. It was just humans and their machines. That's all
and you could you know the it was. The absence of the sound of insects. Are birds or wind. Rain, I mean there was no indication, no odd Tori indication that this place was even on the same planet. Really, I felt a powerful sense that, even though the people I was working with, I respected them. They were good at their jobs. The system that I was immersed in was not good, for you yours or other living things Bell thinks all these people living here they're just so
cut off from the world that I come from the world, it's just alive and exciting, and so he comes up with this plan to just shake things up. He applies for government grant and when they ask him why he needs the money, for he says animals for dogs and cats, four hundred birds yeah. Why four hundred. Well the its healthier to have a pair parakeets encourage? Yes, now you see where this is going. Yes, you, can't just have one: it's not fair, really do the barricades some back then in New York state you couldn't you're not allowed to happen. More than one animal per facilities. So that means like one dog or one cat. Will they don't have like a bird here, I think I know what the room that about, like they dont yard, not like a bird house but like a bird house,
view brand ivy any and Aviary Knower Aviary, it's cool, a bird, a terrier good enough for me, and I, like of so base by some like by some miracle or some oversight like they approve his application, and so he goes out and you know or during these animals- and he also puts up an ad in a local newspaper. Do you Remember what the ad said he I do. Indeed, it said if you love plants, animals and children. This job is, for you apply a chaste nursing home and of course I was absolutely certain that messed up to adds one for a nursing home and one for, like a you, know, some kind of animal shelter, and so I think perhaps that really stirred my curiosity. More than anything bill ends up hiring this woman, Jude Myers nurse and their big day arrives. There were waiting outside
the nursing home when the bird man shows up with this giant van, shows up and we're like great. The birds are here and at that you know we had a ranged, the cages arrive and that nice bird man is like. Where do you want them and we're like would really mean? Where do we want? Them? Is like I gonna drop mafia. We can't can't keep them here. They gotta come inside, so we took the beauty shop at the nursing home. We just let all of the birds loose in the beauty shop, one about the cages, vague all arrived flat in the flat boxes there I had to be assembled. We didn't know this. I don't know why I thought the bird cages would come assembled, but they didn't so you'd have the nerve to take out open the box. Assemble the birdcage, open the door to the beauty room and go in
this is now, I'm not getting go in get two birds. Male and female is best get to parakeets get. Into the cage come out what happened- and this was one of the very first signs we knew we were onto something so that beauty like allowed nursing the beauty room salon. Has these glassy too I've seen you can see and while the elder started coming and laughing their heads off bill, and you told me that the residents themselves were actually changing. Like Jude described this one man who haven't spoken for months and how he would sit in the cafeteria near a group of Ladys that just love to talk about their birds and these Three women who all head birds had would talk day after day. My bird and I thank them
just realized that he was missing out on something really awesome, and so he was able to articulate to a nurse in the hall one day on the way back from a meal. I want a bird. How do you remember how he articulated verbally? He was able to say that and then he would talk to the bird there's. There's dozens of stories like that In the middle of the night, a nurse who is like the dog has taken a shit They were seeing and the desire to give this whole project and name they call it the Eden alternative, but so like in a movie version of this there's like a stern disciplinarian whose, like the others, a nurse it is like hey now like like. Was there that dynamic? He said the people were, of course, some member upset about the extra work he
not one call in the middle of the night. A nurse who is like the dog has taken a shit in the middle of the tv room. I am going to put a chair over it too. You can deal with it in the morning. That's what he says. The reason that he didn't have like a full scale. Mutiny is because pretty soon it became clear that it wasn't just like fun and games hang on the second. He showed me this graph, which I found completely incredible many years. Look at the death rate that happened, The Eden where we are doing Eden sites dropping precipitous, not just want to say, is a physician you never get. That never never like that. It's always like,
Oh it's a little better, we're doing a little better. This is like a death rate, is dropping off a cliff. These people just keep on living and Bell says that they're using less mad, like thirty percent, less medication, just because of the pets. Well, you don't bills that it's not about the animals. Per se. It's more about like this thing that they bring to the nursing home, which is just randomness and excitement. If our laws- we lack enough spontaneity. It loses its tang. It loses that that sweet edge that comes from talking about that thing. That happened, then but if I was going to happen and nursing homes, actually the best of them are eggs extremely good. At wiping out spontaneous
crushing it, and so, when you see a person at a nursing home station where they can slumped over and everybody's doing, their thing that elder has the Potential to be sitting up and looking around the reasons are not setting up and looking around is theirs, there's no cause bill feels like he's, figured out the site, really big thing and he ends up being doing this same experiment in a few other nursing homes has the same results and suddenly there's all these like news trees showing up true to its name. The alternative adds a nursing home with life it's not like it. Animals aren't in a certain place. They are everywhere. We have one dog that knows how to operate the elevator now Billon Jude actually end up going on the road with their ideas and allow
sometimes when they go visit, a nursing home. It's like beetle, maiming, Alec people, love them, and these are some of the best years of girls life. He and jeered fallen, love they get married, they have kids and their travelling around the country. We are so thrilled. We thought that whoever breast a hold of this concept could take this and take it back to their home and make a difference, and in that first Hetty year they said a thousand nursing homes like more than a thousand joined their Eden Revolution, and it felt like a surprisingly easy, victory until we would have people say: oh my gosh, we walked in there and if this is what edens about no thank you, people didn't want to do that down and dirty really make the meaning stick. So they would do you know they would say, like yeah, We got, we gotta conquer Spaniel. You know
and we need we like take them from room to room once a day, every day from one p m, the dubious chaos and chaos of its if its plant yeah, exactly and so at this point bill is like we're right back where we started. You know, people are dying, they don't have to be. People are sad and lonely, they don't have to be, and so he thinks, let's just change the whole nursing. Home itself, like we can stop warehousing people in nineteen. Ninety nine. He comes up with this utopia version of what a nursing home could be and its basically a play. Feels like home. This is our green House and its design like there's this video, where he showing
like as a model of this greenhouse that he built in Mississippi Interval, poor front yard. You can imagine it in the summer time when the flowers bloom, it just looks like suburban home there's a garden where people can hang out you're inside there's, like a hearth, that you can sit around its like Brady Bunch House how people are living there, so Bill says between ten to twelve people? That's it! Okay! So that's the thing! That's gonna! Let you actually be human and this house, and he spends fifteen years trying to get these kinds of nursing homes built. Some of them are the amendments on which we love every home. Has a misuse of watches of prayer inside actually went to see one of them? It's in Westchester, upstate, New York, so right away doesn't look like a traditional nursing home. There's means either
and the reason I'd gone is to meet this woman. When Louise seventy eight she had just moved into the greenhouse like very recent about six months ago and before that she told me she living on her own in Florida, and I was leaving all by myself. I drove I clean. I watch I did everything myself I had no, I was just unaffordable and one night I got up from the sofa and I just don't know how one foot went in front of the other one. I fell forward with my head until the wool snap. My spine, Louisa had surgery after surgery ended up, losing the use of her arms and her legs and that's how she ended up here. It's been very hard
I dont know how to stop doing nothing. It hurt the first couple of months. This was horrible I used to run to the room and cry this greenhouse this special nursing home that Louisa lives in it's a really nice place for a nursing home Now, there's a really attentive staff, she's our own room, but only thing she really thinks about. She says, is her on home, like she just renovated her kitchen and she just keep thinking like this- is not the place that I was supposed to end up in one year. Something strange.
Same thing to happen to my mother happened to me, fell, walk became quite repeated and I had to find a place to place, and I really never never ever in my life did. I feel that something like this will have to me. What am I gonna do what's happening to me. No no choice whatsoever? Just weird. It makes your eyes at everybody thinks everybody else is gonna grow a nursing home. Nobody feels like there. The person like everybody,
You're always going to be able they're always going to be fine yeah, it's it's something that you reserve for the other right, but the thing about bill is that he doesn't have that like advantage, but he's never been able to ignore the reality of existence in nursing home, because Bill and Jude had back in the nineties. They had two daughters, Hayley, Jane and Hannah, and both of them were born with his very rare neurologic. Syndrome, Pillion Hannah were born with something that's given. The name two Horace Syndrome, where the young people are born with cortical blindness, meaning we can't see Stan seizures. The ability to move their body. One is a great idea is of life. Is that before Hannah and heavily were born?
had already committed to a titanic struggle. On behalf for my part of p, but who are very frail and vulnerable. Many of I could not speak or move or talk to you and then Helen Hannah were born and in essence to real elders moved into my house and now, children not changing, not growing in that way, and it was almost as if chemically it was like well. Let's make sure you don't forget how important this is. When I talk to Bell about the greenhouse, he said yeah it didn't change things. The way I wanted it to, but for him and Jude. There is no way out, and so they said you know what we tried Eden. We tried the greenhouse, nothing worked so
screw it the only way to fix this is by breaking it after the break bills. Last desperate. This episode is you buy better for it, a new podcast from HTTP hosted by Francesca Ramsay. We all make mistakes
better, for it looks at how mistakes have shaped the lives and careers of visionaries and business leaders and helps them think differently about what their working for you'll hear from an entrepreneur who ventured out on his own, and so I went out. I took seven hundred dollars. I had in the bank, but my own pickup truck took some flyers business cards in a week later ahead of business and hr rule breaker, whose learned why we all care about work in the first place that you are proud of the work that you do. You want to be able to tell your friends it that you want to be able to feel like you're, making a difference. You'll hear how they work their way through their mistakes and came out better for listen on Spotify wherever you get your PA casts this up, So it is brought to you by Sana picture this a word where you spend less time juggling email meetings and status, updates and, more time doing the work that matters. The most your team. That's the world economy
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So bills grand plan that he's come up with to abolish the nursing homes system, its motivated by his two daughters a couple years ago Hannah his younger daughter. She died from complications and bill was completely heartbroken and he says heaters poured all his time into thinking about how to make life better, for, as other daughter Ellie Jane. She lives with him. It's actually she's our own apartment, which, when you walk into his home, there's adored the right that goes into her place. Should you Harry hello he'll, James Apartment, Jane, my friend sure came. Visit, the all in your hair. Still when she's twenty three looks young and She was at that moment staring off
into space, she was in a race that was essentially forcing her to stand up. What's standing up, puncture sounds, like I say so: excited share its assent because standard most kids with Oda har I'd die very young like before their even two years old, the factory
Ellie Jane is in her early twenties is extraordinary, and bill thinks that part of the reason might be because of the fact that they ve been able to keep her at home out of institutions. You know they take her to the Lake House on the weekends he place. Her Qatar, they ve been able to give her the build this custom life for her to keep her comfortable and bill worries that if he and Jude are what's making this work, then what happens when they're gone. You know after Hannah's death. I wonder if you guys were even more worried about what would happen to Hayley like if, if something happened, you guys, you feel like oh gosh, Ruthie terrifies me so much I cannot speak of it allows will speak of a lot of things, but if something happens to jude- and I.
Yeah, that's not of road, I'm ready to go down. As you know, we issued, and I want to make sure sir body like Kelly. Has a choice, has options and is in,
condemned to an institution, and that gives them incur a great urgency for us, so the minks? Ok, what's the minks so bills, big final idea them income, which is essentially a house. It's a small special house that bill has designed for one person to live in if they can't live in their own homes, who say they had a fall, is actually very expensive to take a regular home and make it accessible gifted ramps you to change the entire bathroom. So the ideas, here's a tiny, accessible house. Yet let me show you a blueprint, looks like a tiny. I hear house would look like totally. Ogilvy looks like like. Like a swedish you be, I don't like the great
sounds of a beautiful like modernist space, and then you just like find this little Alex ethic bigger than a big Sonia. Exactly and bill took me through. You know his his plan, so this is this house's for Hilly Jane. So the result a small ramp. That's like built into the earth here and then this is on a slab. She comes into the house area small kitchen, really Firstly, what many people would recognise as a studio apartment but said about. Being a studio apartment, it's your house and you can put it put it in where you want and livery you want so bells, basically thinking this is for Hayley Jane, but it could be customized for anybody like say someone, who's older needs, inaccessible space and they can just plop at say no in their backyard
I'm I'm my quit. My question is, I think, about my relatives, who are reaching the age at which they need to have around the clock care and, and this to me feels like being isolated if a tiny little hut near backyard. What is the draft for the person who would be living there? The idea is, basically, you can have your own small space and also just live right by your family. Either this when he actually was telling me about the mink. I thought about Louisa, but the woman that I met and then in the greenhouse, the nursing home, because she had to me that when she first had her big fall and was in a wheelchair, her daughter wanted to put her in her house. And Louisa didn't want to go there, even though she close to her daughter, because she didn't want to be a burden, and I feel like that's a completely understandable feeling lighter
and the alternative would have been like if the mink eyes, a thing like you, can create the little space for a person where they can live with their family, but not be in that person's house. It sort of like it sort of like the apartment above the garage, but but wheelchair accessible yeah exactly, but in order for this whole plan to work, the mink you meet a bill had to figure out how to mass produce dislike customizable thing and the way he's had upon. Do this is by three deep printing, the mink us that makes it sound like gets rid of like very cheap polymer that or fall over if you touch it lightly, if not, actually, citing printed
Printing reprinting looks like rib so that the way it works is it there's just regular old construction plywood, all this like insulin and foam and he went on line and bought like fifteen thousand dollars worth of really printing equipment, which takes the plywood and foam and unlike cuts is blueprint. Does
into it, and it is illegal, assemble, white, guy, Lincoln, logs tap water, but the thing that really stumped me about this whole plan of has is the cost of it bill, sad that the mink got to buy the materials to print it and to have it installed. It will cost seventy five thousand dollars that doesn't include the cost of home care, which I assumed would be very expensive. So the whole thing seem pretty prohibitive and I just wanted to understand like who could possibly afford to do this, and so. CALL Tammy Marshall, who is the chief experience officer at the new jewish home, which is the greenhouse Al Nursing Home where Louisa lives, you obviously deal with people every day who had to leave their homes for whatever reason every hour every hour and the question is like for who would
I think I have been a good alternative other than anybody here that needed to be here. I would literally close this. I mean that people, but don't belong here. You know have been her this all that we're doing here can be done in your home. What exactly I mean here is the person who runs a nursing home and she sang gonna want everybody could be in their home a mink whatever, like nobody has to be
here- and it's so crazy to hear that, because I think I always assumed that nursing homes existed because their cheaper or more efficient and what I've learned is that they are not there actually very, very expensive there, far more expensive than Homecare your thing about this, I mean it when you're in a nursing home the average certified nurse assistant who work in the institution. This is always what just blows my mind are paid fifteen to seventeen dollars an hour, not a huge wage and they're doing good work If I'm home care aid a home health aid, I'm making tend to eleven dollars an hour, really yeah. They make almost nothing and their slipping all over there in people's homes, but their their wages are gouged compared to the person who worked in the institution but whose profiting from met my dear,
but we still see you're saying so. It was a wider. More people do Homecare than is it because that way, Why have we stumbled upon such an incredibly broken system that is allegations? Iled are so nursing homes take up a huge chunk of Medicaid Caso in New York state, your average nursing home bad costs, a hundred and thirty five thousand dollars a year, and you know that feeds a lot of different types of companies. There's like pharmaceutical companies, food companies. You know it's just it's just a giant system, the nursing home industrial complex, That's exactly what people call they're gonna say because it sounds a bit crazy conspiratorial was, I can scarcely be like we ve built up water systems They weren't a good idea, but now they have stakeholders they'd, like a bunch of people, were like you're telling me that I needed to shudder my companies that you can build one thousand nearby.
You're like yeah, you got like against all of this. You have one bill. One felt his crappy three be printer guy with the parents like he's, can produce like no yeah I mean we have a bill is actually pretty optimistic. Can't look. Do you think the nursing home systemic? Do you really think it can be broken like? Do you really think you can beat them? Yes, I'll. Tell you why go get the data that shows you the number of nursing homes in America, I know the number I think like some for some fifteen thousand something yeah it used to be. Nineteen thousand. Oh yeah. Four thousand have already closed. This is actually true you, it's not happening quit but every year more people are finding a way to get out of the system and the rest
and I believe that that my abolitionist dream will come to pass is nobody's going to go on a crash programme to rebuild America's nurse so where, at the end of an era, and it's our job to figure out what comes next hours ago, bill thinks that his Manka is going to be the first of many better options, but this mink, because it mink a number one. It's for Hayley, Jane and right now we're getting ready for him. The last panel does make up to make it and the idea is she's gonna be there shall have full time, nursing care and no matter what happens to Bill and Jude we heard some one
stop it. Land Surely you can win any, is repeal Senora foreigner, reviled. By me. Pda vote, announced government shows proves this week by. Surely you can win any
The abandoned damietta mark, Hetty and Ostend. Mitchell are editors, TIM Howard, more editorial help this week from Jorge just impact Walter's production systems from China on we're mixed by Rick, Kwan Matthew, special, they sweet to jewels, Beale, Cheryl, Zimmermann, David Grassy, and that Commerce also Treaty says want to read more about aging and the medical system. She really loved. I told one facebook being mortal particular Matt Labour. About your in one setting. The file is now available on Spotify go check it out there. You can also. The show on Google play apple podcast. Where were you s thanks? Rosalie was easy So we figured out you use the left that ought to make things appear. The right running down here is the transport size,
displays and gaze and see where they exist. Brady where'd, you go, I've been before the skies deals with glowing bees. Did you ever jars and thanks. You can make me My popping one in your grandmother would join other. Aramis divide. Ok now take the floor.
If we just had more jars, we could take them back with us, employees from.
Transcript generated on 2020-02-13.