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Families’ memorials fund garden, landscaping at Almost Home
Jim Hilliard and Karen Nicholson enjoy the new flower garden at Almost Home, 1919 Van Buren. Hilliard uses the adult daycare services, while Nicholson is a full-time resident at the non-profit, short- and long-term-care residence.

           The idea for a flower garden and other landscaping had been on the agenda for at least a year at Almost Home. But it wasn’t in the budget.

            Recently, however, two families suggested memorials to the short- and long-term-care residence in honor of loved ones. Now, Mother Nature is blooming in the backyard at 1919 Van Buren.

            Hope Ney, Hoisington, is a member of one of the families that established a memorial. Her mother, Ruth Axman, 87, passed away March 24. She lived at Almost Home, a non-profit entity, for almost three years.

“We were attracted to the ratio of staff members to residents,” Ney said. “Mom had dementia and I knew they would keep a good eye on her. We wanted to prevent her from falling and we knew someone would be watching out for her at all times here.

“Within a few months at Almost Home, she was a new woman. Since Mom and the staff had planted flowers out front earlier, I know she would be so happy the memorial went to a garden. She loved everything about flowers and gardening.”

Ney also noted her family was drawn to Almost Home because it is a large house in a nice residential area. “When you walk in, it immediately feels like home,” she said. “Mom loved the staff and the staff loved her. Many of them came to her funeral.”

Liz Schartz, Great Bend, was quick to note her family appreciated the staff-to-resident ratio too because it allows for a lot of one-on-one care. Schartz’ father, P.D. Smith, 89, passed away April 27 and lived at Almost Home nearly four years.

“Dad would have loved this garden,” Schartz said. “He was a farmer and loved to plant things and watch them grow. He also loved sitting on the front and back porches to visit with his friends.

“We immediately liked the idea of this beautiful facility,” she added. “It is just the peace of mind that comes with it. They become your family. Never did we feel like we had to check up on Dad constantly. The residents don’t just sit in a room. They are engaged with activities, outings and visits from volunteers.”

The Schartz family also relied on Almost Home’s hospice service for about a week and took advantage of the on-site retreat house.

“It was a comfort to know the same people were caring for Dad at the end,” she said. “Because of the retreat house, we were able to have a birthday party here.”

            Schartz also noted the addition of the solarium, a 14-by-36-foot, high-ceiling room that allows family visits in an airy, pleasant atmosphere.

            Ney and/or Schartz mentioned other reasons their families were drawn to Almost Home. Reasons include: three home-cooked meals daily, with breakfast made to order when each resident is ready in the morning; low staff turnover rate; exceptional personal hygiene practices; celebrations at every holiday; clergy and doctors’ visits; competitive pricing; and more.

            Leilani Schenkel, executive director, said that without the generosity of these two families, the landscaping would have been put on hold even longer. The memorials paid for items such as mulch, plants, dirt work, paving stones, a bench and statue.

            “Our residents love it,” Schenkel said. “It is just the serenity of it – the colors and peaceful environment. And since one thing leads to another, residents have planted squash, cucumbers and cherry tomatoes.

            “If it wasn’t for generous donations, we couldn’t do a lot of things. In addition to these memorials, 100+ People Who Care donated seed money of $10,000 for the solarium.”

            Shenkel noted that families making short- and long-term-care decisions should know that Almost Home can serve a large majority of people.

            “As long as we can meet their physical needs, they are more than welcome,” she said. “Some are quite mobile, while others use walkers and wheelchairs. We can accommodate most people and our pricing is very competitive.”

            In addition to full-time residency, Almost Home offers adult daycare, respite care and end-of-life care.