Forget about nursing homes with the antiseptic atmosphere and ambiance of a cold, hospital institution.

Think instead of a ranch-style, patio home with a great room with fireplace, a TV room, dining room, kitchen and a private suite for each resident. This is the new model of nursing homes offered by Otterbein Senior Lifestyle Choices in its small house communities.

“They are without any doubt a completely new and unique model of nursing homes,” says Gary Horning, vice president marketing and communications for Otterbein Senior Lifestyle Choices. “I just think it’s the new standard of excellence when it comes to skilled nursing care.”

The homes have skilled nursing staff, rehabilitative care staff and training assistants to work with the residents on a person-centered care basis, he says. The homes are for both long-term residents, such as a traditional nursing home, and short-stay residents, says Horning.

Short-stay residents are typically people who have just been released from a hospital following surgery for hip or knee replacement, or a stroke or heart attack and need rehabilitative therapy, he says.

The small house communities are great for that type of therapy because most of the short-stay residents need care structured around what they need to be doing when they go back to their home, such as doing the laundry or cooking, says Horning.

Instead of using replica appliances or cabinets, such as in a traditional nursing home, the small house communities have active, working kitchens and laundry rooms, he says. Therapy rooms inside the homes are also equipped with traditional rehabilitation devices such as stationary bikes and treadmill machines, says Horning.

Each home in a small house community has 10 private suites so no one has to share a room, with five homes in each community, he says.

Otterbein Senior Lifestyle Choices recently opened its ninth such facility in Ohio near Loveland, Horning says. Other communities include two near Toledo, two near Columbus, one in Middletown, one in Springboro, one in Maineville and one in Union Township in Clermont County.

“Each one of those homes is to be, in essence, the home for each and every one of those residents,” Horning says. “The majority of people look around and go, ‘Wow, I could live here.’ And to believe that it’s a licensed nursing home is just very difficult for people to believe.”

The rules, or lack thereof, are also quite different from a traditional nursing home, he says. “People wake up when they want to, they go to bed when they want to, they eat when they want to, they help plan the meal schedule,” Horning says.

The home is also conducive to family visits and traditions, he says. Families who have a tradition of cooking a big breakfast with their parents on the weekend are welcome to do so in the small house communities and movie nights with the grandchildren are also welcomed, Horning says.

The small house communities are a big hit with senior citizens and their adult children, he says. “They are unbelievably popular,” Horning says.