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Residents move into Almost Home; day-care, respite services popular too
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CNA, prepares homemade brownies in the Almost Home kitchen. This is just one of the personal touches residents and visitors can expect. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

          Toni Ely of Great Bend acknowledged that she battled strong feelings of guilt when it was time to find a new home for her mother. But thanks to the recent opening of a new non-profit venture in town, Ely has found relief from those feelings.

          Her 82-year-old mother is one of the full-time residents at Almost Home Inc., the completely remodeled house at 1919 Van Buren. It is the first of its kind in Great Bend, and offers full-time residency, adult day care and respite care for families.

          Ely said her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s four years ago.

“I was living with her the last two years but she developed other medical conditions,” Ely said. “I still thought I could care for her at home but I couldn’t.”

          The next stop was St. Rose’s Golden Belt Home Health & Hospice, which provided in-home care to Ely’s mother. She said the Golden Belt home-health nurses “were great” but it became obvious her mom needed 24-hour supervision and more social interaction. Golden Belt then gave Ely a brochure from Almost Home.

          “I had looked for adult day care locally for two years,” Ely recalled. “Then I read this Almost Home brochure and we got mom involved in the day-care activities. She began to thrive and now lives at Almost Home full-time.

          “I understand everyone feels guilt at times like these,” Ely continued. “But Almost Home is about as guilt-free as you can get. It does feel like a family here. Everybody is just so good to mom.”

          Leilani Schenkel, R.N., executive director and operator, indicated that Ely’s story is all too common.

          “For example, a husband or wife can basically be held hostage while caring for an ailing spouse,” Schenkel said. “They can’t run errands or take a little time for themselves. Almost Home can be the answer.”

          Adult day care is offered on an hourly basis, up to 24 hours. Almost Home is the only licensed provider of adult day care in Great Bend on an hourly basis.

Respite care allows someone to live at Almost Home for up to 30 days to give a family time for a vacation or other pursuits.

          The non-profit entity officially opened on March 17 and now has four full-time residents, with a capacity for 10. It employs 18 people – two registered nurses, and certified nurse’s aides and certified medication aides. It is staffed 24 hours a day.

          “Our residents enjoy a home-like atmosphere,” Schenkel said, noting they can bring personal belongings. “They get up in the morning when they are ready and enjoy a hot breakfast made just for them. Lunch and dinner are family style, and we stock the cupboards with special requests.

          “The bottom line,” Schenkel continued, “is that this is their home. Our residents enjoy visiting but they can have their privacy too.”

          In addition to full-time residency, and day-care and respite services, Almost Home has two private rooms for those who need end-of-life hospice care.

          “We contract with local agencies licensed to provide hospice services,” Schenkel explained. “The two rooms designated for hospice are simply another referral option for those agencies.”

          Schenkel fulfilled the licensing requirements of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services. Almost Home is faith-based, she added, noting she views it as a ministry instead of a job.

          The registered nurse’s background includes 17 years as an emergency room nurse at Central Kansas Medical Center, where she was also chief nursing officer and chief operating officer. Schenkel also has served as a paramedic, flight nurse and marketing director at EagleMed and director of nursing at Clara Barton Hospital.

          Financial options at Almost Home include private pay and long-term-care insurance. The Veteran’s Administration sometimes helps, and Medicaid certification is pending.

          Donations to the non-profit venture can be made to Lasting Life Ministries to Benefit Almost Home Inc. For more information, contact Schenkel by calling 620-617-1634.