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.
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.
by Kelsey Ryan
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @kelsey_ryan.
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.
email@example.com / 316-266-6172
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.
Josh Heck covers health care, professional services, education and energy.
firstname.lastname@example.org / 316-266-6172
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.
By Carla Eckles
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.”
Digital Editor- Wichita Business Journal
Employees overall think these are among the best companies in the Wichita area at which to find a job.
This year’s Best Places to Work honorees in the medium category (35 to 99 employees) are featured in the attached slideshow. (ComfortCare Homes, Inc. is one of the nominees)
Small-category honorees were announced on Monday, and medium-category honorees will be announced on Wednesday.
The WBJ worked with Quantum Workplace, which administers a survey to see how workers feel about their employers, to determine this year’s honorees.
For now, the companies are presented in alphabetical order. At an event on Dec. 11, the employers with the highest scores will be announced.
The Best Places to Work luncheon will also honor all 30 small-, medium- and large-category honorees. Tickets are available online.
KAKE TV Channel 10 – Susan Peters
WICHITA — Alzheimer’s caregivers are calling it a miracle.
Kansas Nursing Homes are asking for it.
“It” is not a drug. It’s a new therapy for people with Alzheimer’s that’s only available in New York and Wichita. All it takes is an iPod.
Wichitan Dave Roth, now a musician in New York, saw a documentary entitled “Alive Inside.” It won several awards at the Sundance Film Festival. The documentary chronicles one social worker’s discovery about how an iPod can “awaken” Alzheimer’s patients from their comatose-like state.
The iPods are loaded with personalized music from the patient’s teenage and early adult years, because it’s the music brains are most attached to.
Roth brought the program to Wichita to test it on his mother, along with the help of his sister. He says they’re both astonished.
“She could be sitting there in a chair, almost in a comatose look for her and you put the headphones on her and her eyes change,” says Nancy Kersenbrock speaking of her mother Nathalee Roth. “The whole awakening thing….you can see her awaken.” Her brother goes one step further.
“My mother at the time had four words she could say. She had a language of four words” says Dave Roth. “I put the iPod on her for the first time and she started singing lyrics with me.”
Together with the local Alzheimer’s Association, Roth has now brought the “Music and Memories” program to Wichita…the second city in the nation.
Nadine Rogers, at Comfort Care Homes in Wichita, suffers from severe dementia. Her daughter, Beverly Crowe, says she has been almost unresponsive for months. We went with the Alzheimer’s Association as they put headphones on Nadine for the first time. Her iPods was programmed with music from the 40s that Nadine and her late husband used to dance to. Her smile was immediate.
“I am very surprised,” said her daughter Beverly. “She has not done that in three months.” Nadine began to tap her feet, and even moved her head to the music. She even starts to talk.
The director at Comfort Care, Doug Stark immediately got tears in his eyes. “She hasn’t smiled in three months. It’s magical.”
The local Alzheimer’s Association would love to receive your donation of old iPods, CDs, and iTunes cards. If you would like to help, call 316-267-7333 or 1-800-272-3900.
Bill Warren has agreed to a public showing of the documentary “Alive Inside” at the East Warren Theatre. A donation to the Alzheimer’s Association gets you in on November 20th. Attendees wanting to buy tickets need to go to the Warren Theatres ticket vendor at: www.movietickets.com/pre_purchase.asp?movie_id=135196&house_id=8217&showdate=13
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DOCUMENTARY – ALIVE INSIDE – COMING TO WICHITA
INSPIRES NEW NATIONAL AWARENESS OF MUSIC’S EFFECTIVENESS IN DEMENTIA CARE
Wichita, KS – The Alzheimer’s Association, Central and Western Kansas Chapter has secured the rights to bring the documentary film Alive Inside, winner of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival – Documentary Audience Award, to Wichita. This stirring documentary follows social worker Dan Cohen, founder of the nonprofit organization Music and Memory, as he fights against a broken healthcare system to demonstrate music’s ability to combat memory loss and restore a deep sense of self to those suffering from it. “Seeing this film will inspire you to look at the person behind the disease, and in doing so know you have a way to reach that person,” commented Linsey Norton, LMSW, Program Director for the Alzheimer’s Association, Central and Western Kansas Chapter.
The film will be shown at the Warren Theatre – Old Town, Wichita, Kansas, as part of the 3rd Annual Kansas Education Conference on Dementia. Participants of the conference can register to see the entire film on Monday, November 17, 2014 sponsored by ComfortCare Homes® and Warren Theaters. Participants of the conference will then hear Ann Wyatt of Music and Memory, New York, speak as the final keynote for the all-day conference on November 18, 2014. Wyatt will share how the Music and Memory program founded by Cohen has changed lives across the country.
“This empowering film is changing how a we reconnect with those we love who have dementia, while improving the quality of their life,” said Robert Miller, LMSW, Vice President of Company Development, ComfortCare Homes®. Alive Inside is a joyous cinematic exploration of music’s capacity to reawaken our souls and uncover the deepest parts of our humanity. Filmmaker Michael Rossato-Bennett chronicles the astonishing experiences of individuals around the country who have been revitalized through the simple experience of listening to music. His camera reveals the uniquely human connection we find in music and how its healing power can triumph where prescription medication falls shorts.
Local and state officials have been invited to see the film in Wichita in an effort to build support for a State initiative expanding the efforts of the Music and Memory model throughout the state of Kansas. Currently The Alzheimer’s Association, Central and Western Kansas Chapter, operates the Roth Project – Music and Memory, a local program named after the family that brought the idea from New York to Wichita. “Anyone with a diagnosis of dementia should have access to a program like Music and Memory because it can make a significant difference in the life of the person and their family,” stated Doug Stark, President of ComfortCare Homes®. States like Wisconsin and Utah have already made great strides to dedicate funds and resources to programs that give individuals and families access to Music and Memory programs. (Additional details attached)
A press conference is scheduled prior to the movie showing, Nov 17, at the Warren Theatre, Old Town, at 1:00 pm. This is an opportunity to interview key people involved in bringing the film to Wichita, as well as Ann Wyatt of the Music and Memory program of New York. Phone interviews with Dan Cohen, Founder of Music and Memory, New York, can be scheduled. Contact Linsey Norton at Alzheimer’s Association for details.
An encore showing of Alive Inside is planned for November 20, 2014 at 6:30 PM, at the Warren Theater (East), 11611 E. 13th, Wichita, Kansas. This showing will be open to the general public. Tickets can be purchased through the Warren Theatre Box Office.
For more information about The 3rd Annual Kansas Education Conference on Dementia, showings of Alive Inside, or how to make a donation to the Alzheimer’s Association, Central and Western Kansas – Roth Project, Music and Memory program, call the Alzheimer’s Association at 316-267-7333 / email@example.com. Registration for the conference can also be found on-line at http://www.alz.org/centralandwesternkansas.
We are extremely pleased with the care that my uncle has received at ComfortCare Homes. We feel that the small environment is easier for him to navigate, provides individualized care, and doesn’t have an “institutional” feel while providing all the services that the larger memory care facilities provide. During the past year, my uncle has had ups and downs. At one point he needed additional care and was moved to Founder’s Crest, but upon regaining his strength, was able to move back to his original ComfortCare Home. Everyone from the nursing staff, to the office staff, to the maintenance man was helpful during that time. I am so happy that we chose ComfortCare Homes!
- Marilyn Hugon