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Wichita bait dog gets second chance on life, lives with Alzheimer’s patients

Wednesday, July 5th, 2017 8:19:49 PM
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WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – A Wichita bait dog, found covered in wounds, is now getting a second chance on life.

“Buy me some peanuts and crackerjacks,” sang Comfort Care Home resident Jesse Seager.

Jesse Seager loves to sing. He said it helps put him and the other Alzheimer’s patients at the Comfort Care Home in Wichita at ease. Like music, many of the residents also rely on their new four-legged friend, Dante, to help them feel secure at the facility.

“We just like him, you know, he just makes this a nice place,” said resident Rita Mendal.

However, Dante’s life has been far from nice. In fact, some might say his life has been downright horrific.

Wichita Animal Control officers picked up Dante in the 900 block of North Grove Street in late October. Wichita police said Dante’s teeth were either knocked out or filed down and he was covered in open wounds. At the time, police said they believed Dante was used as a bait dog to teach other dogs how to fight.

“His neck was completely, just basically destroyed by fighting,” said Comfort Care Homes Activities Director and Beauties and Beasts Inc. volunteer Kasey Breidenthal. “He had a skin graft about 7 inches of his back taken to repair his neck.”

Beauties and Beasts Inc. adopted Dante from the Wichita shelter shortly after he was brought in by officers. The rescue team then put Dante through rehab before finding him a forever home at one of the Comfort Care Homes locations in Wichita.

“He lives here full-time. My activity staff comes through every day. We take him to vet appointments if needed, and yeah he just gets to hang out with the residents and be part of the house. He’s treated just like another resident,” said Breidenthal. “He has been living here and loving, being loved on by the residents and becoming fat and spoiled.”

“He just makes it better, I think,” said Mendal.

Dante has been the house dog at one of the Comfort Care Home locations for about three months. Officials said he even sleeps with one of the residents.

Kansas couple using ‘puppet passion’ to spread joy

Tuesday, June 27th, 2017 9:45:10 PM
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WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – A Hutchinson couple is putting their passion for storytelling and puppets to good use.

The story of Jim and Natalee Ganyon is far from ordinary. The two lived in the Southwest for decades, each pursuing a love of teaching and helping others.

Natalee was a preschool and kindergarten teacher in New Mexico. Jim, a United States Army Veteran, was a special education teacher and also worked for law enforcement in Nevada. The pair met online a couple of years ago. That’s when they realized they were a match made in puppet heaven.

“Our puppets have talked to each other through Skyping a lot. We Skyped through our puppets a lot,” laughed Natalee Ganyon.

Soon after meeting each other online, Jim and Natalee married and moved to Hutchinson. Next, the retirees decided to use their passion for puppets as a way to educate people and spread joy throughout the community. The pair now travels around the state storytelling to different groups including local YMCA’s, juveniles at the detention center and senior citizens.

“It’s a way of providing encouragement, joy, and as a certified teacher every time we do a puppet program, from adults to kids, you can get people to laugh and that’s the thing when you walk away from it, you say, I did a good thing,” said Jim Ganyon.

On Tuesday, the Ganyon’s put on a show for the residents at one of the Comfort Care Homes in Wichita. All of the residents at the home have Alzheimer’s or the early stages of the disease.

“They are kind of like tools that we can use to touch people’s lives,” Jim said.

“It’s very therapeutic to use a puppet,” Natalee said. “It’s a cognitive thing where they get their memory going again.”

The residents also get a kick out of the puppets.

“I thought those were so funny!” said resident Rita Mendal.

The Ganyon’s said, ultimately, storytelling through puppets is their way to give back to the community and help spread happiness throughout Kansas.

“In my career, I’ve seen too many bad things, I mean horrible things in law enforcement and the military. It’s a way of changing lives,” Jim said.

“That’s the reward, when you actually feel like you are making a deposit into someone’s life,” Natalee said.

Entrepreneur was ‘a guy who truly loved Wichita,’ son says

Monday, March 27th, 2017 6:54:43 PM
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Comfort Care Homes to build $2.6M facility to treat advanced dementia, Alzheimer’s

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017 2:24:19 PM
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Wichita Business Journal

by Josh Heck

ComfortCare Homes is hoping to raise the bar on providing Alzheimer’s care by doing something it hasn’t done before: building a senior living center from the ground up. The Wichita-based company will start construction sometime this month on a $2.6 million facility that will house up to 28 residents with advanced stages of Alzheimer’s and dementia. The residence will include 26 units and two short-stay suites.

Doug Stark, president of Comfort Care Homes, talked to me about the project this week. He says this isn’t a speculative project — rather it’s one that will better serve the company’s existing residents. “We are seeing the need for there to be better care options for advanced dementia,” Stark says. He anticipates having 19 or the 26 units filled when the center, which will be on two acres southeast of the intersection of 21st and Woodlawn, behind Brittany Center, opens. The property is off of Bramblewood Street.

The residence will be called Founders Crest and will be the first piece of what is expected to be a mixed-use development. Accel Construction LLC is the general contractor. Tom Compton of Compton Associates is the lead architect on the project, but Health Facilities Group LLC, which specializes in medical projects, collaborated on the design. Equity Bank is financing the project.

Stark says the facility will be equipped to provide advanced-stage memory care and could serve as a place where residents can be referred when other senior living providers can no longer care for them.

Comfort Care Homes has nine existing facilities, all of them made to look like homes and blend in with a residential setting. The company offers mainly memory-care services. In 2011, Comfort Care opened its ninth Wichita facility to offer long-term Alzheimer’s care. The Chalet, as it is called, is a 4,500-square-foot home near Central and Woodlawn.
But Stark’s latest project goes against the grain.

While this is the first new-building project Comfort Care has undertaken, Stark says it was still designed to look like a residential property and provide a home-like atmosphere for residents. Amenities will include a beauty salon, a therapy room, a medical suite and gardens. Stark says Comfort Care has a partnership with GraceMed Health Clinic to provide in-house dental services for residents.

The site near Brittany Center, Stark says, provides proximity to all of Comfort Care’s other properties, which are located in the general area of Central and Woodlawn.

Charles and Mary Lou Stark founded Comfort Care Homes 20 years ago, utilizing a residential-care concept to treat people with Alzheimer’s. Doug Stark has long advocated for additional funding for Alzheimer’s research and has even taken his fight to Washington D.C.

Josh Heck covers health care, professional services, education and energy.

ComfortCare Homes opens ninth residence

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017 2:23:52 PM
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Wichita Business Journal

by Josh Heck

The work has been completed, and Comfort Care Homes is ready to open its ninth Wichita facility.

The senior living provider is opening The Chalet, a 4,500-square-foot home near Central and Woodlawn that will serve as a long-term Alzheimer’s care unit. Comfort Care is spending $500,000 on the project. It is the first home comfort care has named, but it part of an overall facilities improvement and expansion that the Wichita-based company started last year.

Accel Construction LLC is the general contractor. Compton Associates Development is the architect. Comfort Care provides memory care for seniors in a home-like environment through a special license from the Kansas Department on Aging called Home Plus, which allows providers to care for up to eight people in a home setting. The concept is gaining popularity in the Wichita area as more senior living providers look to add more housing options. care, professional services, education and energy.

New home for those with dementia to include oral care

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017 2:23:13 PM
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The Wichita Eagle

by Kelsey Ryan

Original Article: http://www.kansas.com/2013/11/13/3115835/new-wichita-home-for-those-with.html

ComfortCare Homes, a Wichita-based Alzheimer’s care group, is partnering with GraceMed Health Clinic to provide preventive oral health care at its newest location, Founders Crest.

“We see this as a pivotal change in our overall way of doing business,” said Doug Stark, president of ComfortCare.

The $2.6 million home, which is scheduled to open in early 2014, will have a designated medical suite for GraceMed to bring in oral hygiene equipment, Stark said.

Founders Crest will house 26 people with advance dementia in mostly private rooms at 6887 Rockhill Lane, just southeast of 21st and Woodlawn.

This is the first new construction home for ComfortCare, which was started in 1993 and has eight Wichita locations that house 58 residents. It also has licensees in Kansas City, Baldwin City, Pittsburg, Omaha and soon in Newton.

“In all of our other eight homes, our model is to take large, elegant ranch homes in upscale neighborhoods and convert to special care for people with dementia,” he said.

For this concept, Stark said, “I went straight to (architect) Tom Compton and said I want to build a building that goes much farther in accommodating our residents that are very progressed in the disease, but I want when it’s done to look like somebody’s $2.5 million home in Vickridge.”

Stark says ComfortCare is adamant about providing a home environment rather than one that is institutional.

Residents of Founders Crest will have oral cleanings on a quarterly basis, Stark said. ComfortCare will also transport residents from its other homes to the site for cleanings and check-ups.

GraceMed oral hygienists are receiving training on how to work with people who have Alzheimer’s, said Venus Lee, GraceMed’s associate executive director.

They will focus on preventive oral care and will be able to refer residents to a dentist or specialist if necessary.

Residents will be billed for the cost of the cleanings through insurance or on a sliding fee scale, Lee said.

“It’s extremely difficult when you’re trying to provide oral care to someone in their mid-80s who has server dementia,” Stark said. “They would rather do anything in the world than open their mouth and have you work on their teeth. The overall health of body, heart disease, many times starts as a problem in the mouth. There are lots of things if you have bad oral care that lead to so many other dysfunctions.”

Although GraceMed offers dental to other nursing homes in the area, this is the first time it will have a designated space for a clinic, Lee said.

“Our goal is to just take care of as much of the community as possible with oral health as we can,” she said. “We want to be the bridges (over) the gaps.”

Project architect is Tom Compton of Compton Associates and general contractor is Accel Construction.

For more information on the new building, call 316-685-3322 or go to www.founderscrest.com

Reach Kelsey Ryan at 316-269-6752 or kryan@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @kelsey_ryan.


Wichita nursing homes face challenges finding qualified applicants

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017 2:22:30 PM
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Wichita Business Journal

By Josh Heck

Hiring for long-term care facilities can be challenging. It requires finding people who not only have appropriate health care training and skill sets, but also experience providing skilled, long-term care, say those charged with making personnel decisions.

The Wichita Business Journal asked operators of local nursing home facilities about their biggest hiring challenges, and findings qualified applicants was the oft-cited concern.

For ComfortCare Homes Inc., its hiring challenges involve finding qualified people who have experience working with individuals with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

Doug Stark, ComfortCare’s president, says his business places extra emphasis on training because there are so few people who have the exact skill set the company needs.

It’s an expensive proposition, too, but it’s necessary to ensure ComfortCare has a properly trained work force, Stark says.

“We can’t just hire five people and hope that three of them work out,” Stark says. “We want to be certain that that person will be a good long-term fit.”

ComfortCare mostly hires people who are certified medication aides – a special designation that is required for those who administer routine medications in nursing home settings, under the supervision of a registered nurse – so finding people with that certification or those who are willing to get it can be a challenge.

Stark estimates ComfortCare spends around $2,100 per person in the acquisition of talent. That factors in placing help-wanted ads through completion of ComfortCare’s 50-hour training session, which is spread out over 10 days.

That course covers basic things like infection control, and then incorporates the more specialized training that is required for people who work with dementia patients. Stark says the added training teaches caregivers about resident’s rights, preventing neglect and abuse and how to handle situations where patients become combative or refuse to eat or take their medication.

“We have to carry everything beyond what happens in a traditional setting,” Stark says.

Angie Lee, ComfortCare’s director of resident care, developed the company’s training program. She is a certified dementia trainer under the National Council of Certified Practitioners.

Hiring is a high priority for Stark right now as the company prepares for the 20 or so jobs that will be created with the addition of its Founders Crest advanced dementia care facility in March. Most of those will be new hires, but some will relocate from other ComfortCare facilities, leaving vacancies elsewhere.

A new round of training for new employees started on Monday.

Finding the right fit

Other nursing home operators face similar hiring challenges.

Mark Schulte, executive director of Wichita Presbyterian Manor, says hiring workers for long-term care settings is difficult because those facilities often are competing for the same workers that hospitals, doctor’s offices and rehabilitation facilities are.

“There’s always going to be a challenge to find qualified workers because there are so many other health care entities,” Schulte says.

Fred Hermes, president of Axiom Healthcare Services, says finding nurses or nurses aides who have worked in long-term care setting is his company’s biggest challenge. Axiom is a standalone company that oversees the operations of senior-living facilities owned by Wichita’s Physicians Development Group, which Hermes is also a partner in.

Hermes says nursing homes also have a difficult regulatory environment, and making sure potential hires understand those rules can be challenging.

Hermes, like ComfortCare’s Stark, says nursing home operators can offset some of those skill-set shortfalls through additional training.

Hermes says there are people in the Wichita area who have at least some of the skills that nursing home operators are looking for, it sometimes takes longer to find them.

jheck@bizjournals.com / 316-266-6172

Comfort Care Home’s $2.6M advanced dementia-care facility to open

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017 2:22:01 PM
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Wichita Business Journal

By Josh Heck

Comfort Care Homes will open its new care center for people with advanced stages of Alzheimer’s and dementia next week.

Inspectors are doing the final check-offs on the $2.6 million Founders Crest facility.

The facility is located on two acres southeast of the intersection of 21st and Woodlawn, behind Brittany Center. The property is off Bramblewood Street.

Founders Crest can accommodate up to 28 residents. The building has 26 long-term care units and two short-stay suites.

The facility will open with 19 of those spots already spoken for. Most of those will be residents who are moved from some of Comfort Care’s older facilities.

Announced last June,   Founders Crest is the first ground-up facility that Comfort Care has opened.

The facility also  includes an in-house dental clinic, which GraceMed Health Clinic will operate.

Josh Heck covers health care, professional services, education and energy.

jheck@bizjournals.com / 316-266-6172

Linked to original article in Wichita Business Journal.

Open house planned at center that will care for people with dementia

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017 2:21:19 PM
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Read more on Eagle Link.

By Kelsey Ryan. The Wichita Eagle

ComfortCare Homes is hosting an open house for its latest advanced memory care location, Founders Crest, from 3 to 6 p.m. Friday at 6887 Rockhill Road, according to a news release.

The new facility includes 24-hour care, licensed nursing team, beauty salon, therapy room, medical suite for examinations, electronic security system, family style dining, housekeeping and laundry.

The Eagle previously reported that the new building cost $2.6 million and will house 26 people with advanced dementia.

Residents will begin moving in Tuesday.

The new facility will include other services at an additional fee, including hospice, in-house visits by a primary care provider and preventive oral health services by GraceMed.

ComfortCare Homes also has locations in Kansas City, Baldwin City, Pittsburg, Omaha and Newton. It was started in 1993 by Charles and Mary Lou Stark.

Project architect is Tom Compton of Compton Associates and general contractor is Accel Construction.

For more information, call 316-685-3322 or go to www.comfortcarehomeswichita.com.

KMUW/NPR RADIO: Seniors With Alzheimer’s Benefit From iPod Therapy

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017 2:20:42 PM
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By Carla Eckles

Listen to show at http://kmuw.org/post/seniors-alzheimers-benefit-ipod-therapy

One of the most heartbreaking things for families who have a loved one with Alzheimer’s is that there are very few ways for them to communicate. The Roth Project: Music Memories has partnered with the local Alzheimer’s Association in an effort to help families connect with those living with the disease through a new iPod Therapy Program. A Wichita woman living with Alzheimer’s has experienced a bit of a breakthrough through therapy with music.

70-year-old Kristi Wilson lives in Founder’s Crest, tucked away in northeast Wichita. Her husband, Barrick Wilson, says even though the couple has been married for 50 years, his wife doesn’t seem to remember him.

“I have to figure out whether today I’m her husband, whether I’m a friend from her teenage years or whether I’m a stranger. I don’t know,” Wilson says. “She would ask me questions about Barrick, talking about me in the third person.”

Wilson says Kristi would ask if he owned any cows or rode horses.

“That’s a little unnerving when your wife of 46 years starts asking you questions about yourself, but as you begin to understand the rules, if you will, on Planet Alzheimer’s, you understand that you just go along with whatever they’re saying,” Wilson says. “It’s like living constantly in an improv theater. You never know what the person on stage is going to say, but there’s an audience out there and they’re expecting you to come up with something appropriate and go with it.”

Lindsey Norton, Program Director for the Central and Western chapter of the Kansas Alzheimer’s Association, works closely with the couple. She knows how difficult it can be for families to communicate with a loved one living with the disease.

“One of the things that a families like Barrick really struggle with is, ‘How do I connect to my loved one?’, ‘How do I get in touch with them when they can’t speak to me anymore…when they don’t show me recognition?’ As a professional, I can look at Kristi when Barrick walks in the room and I see her light up,” Norton says. “I see her recognize him. A lot of us who know Kristi and know Barrick, we can see that. But he doesn’t see that, so my job is to help him understand and to help him connect with her. Music is a great way to do that.”

Music, Norton says, has a remarkable way of interacting with the brain.

“It hits the emotional connection, which is what we really key in on in Alzheimer’s care, the holistic care model,” Norton explains. “Treating the total person so we can use music to really connect with that person and their memories and calm them down, help them feel a little more at home without having to resort to drugs or other kinds of treatments.”

According to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, when used appropriately, music can shift mood, manage stress-induced agitation, stimulate positive interactions, facilitate cognitive function and coordinate motor movements.

This happens because rhythmic and other well-rehearsed responses require little-to-no cognitive or mental processing. They are influenced by the motor center of the brain that responds directly to auditory rhythmic cues. A person’s ability to engage in music, particularly rhythm playing and singing, remains intact late into the disease.

The Roth Project: Music Memories helps to fund the new iPod Therapy Program that personalizes music on iPods programmed for people with Alzheimer’s.

Founders Crest provides 24 hour-a-day care for advanced memory care patients.

Credit Carla Eckels

ComfortCare Homes built and operates the new memory care home, Founder’s Crest. The company approached the Alzheimer’s Association to lead in offering the project not only to their own residents but also to families throughout the Wichita area.

Norton programmed an iPod for Kristi, and with Barrick’s support, officially began implementing the Roth Project.

“I could see her smile,” Wilson says. “And I knew that, in her mind, she was picturing her parent’s living room with the big, long wooden stereo and she was at home and she was happy.”

“We reached out and put the headphones on her and just kind of started dancing and singing and she was happy as can be,” Norton says. “She leaned over the woman next to her and tapped her on the arm and said, ‘I’m listening to this!’ and she smiled, as Barrick said. That’s one of my favorite memories! It was one of those this is why I do what I do moments in social work.”

“It was moving for me,” Wilson says. “I mean, when I enter the home I see no reaction from my wife. I don’t know if it’s a lack of recognition. I don’t know if its anger and rejection aimed at me and I’m internalizing it. I just don’t know, but to see her smile was one the biggest things that had happened to me in three or four years. So it was emotionally moving for me to be able to see her smile and I knew right then a there she was going to be fine with the music.”

Robert Miller is Vice President of Company Development for ComfortCare Homes, which built Founder’s Crest. Miller works with Kristi and Barrick, and the other families in the therapy program.

“We’ve seen that Kristi is a success story,” Miller says. “It’s not necessarily the case with every resident. We’re not going to say that the iPod itself takes away all of the issues and that everyone responds the same way but to have Kristi be the first and have her respond so well has been a joy and it motivates our company to want to give back to this program in a way that other families even at home can benefit from the same thing.”


Founder’s Crest (Home) is a warm and open atmosphere with a lot of natural light. It has a fresh look and smell which is pleasing. My sister and I had a hard decision to leave mom in Wichita after our father passed away. Finding ComfortCare Homes was a blessing. The staff are loving, kind, gentle and caring with all of the Residents. It is like they are taking care of their own families.

- Jackie Bayouth



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