Marisa Struckhoff and her four siblings were like a lot of adult children – holding their breath while searching for an answer to an aging parent’s physical and emotional decline.
But Jim Thurman’s kids were finally able to exhale when they found Almost Home, 1919 Van Buren. The non-profit entity, which offers residential, caregiver-respite and hospice services, is observing its first year in business this month.
Thurman, 89, has lived at Almost Home since May 2014. Many longtime Great Bend residents remember Thurman as an independent insurance agent and former mayor.
Struckhoff, his daughter who lives in Fort Collins, Co., visited recently and said Almost Home is a “huge blessing” in many ways.
“Dad was not doing well living at home by himself,” Struckhoff recalled.
“We needed to make a switch. After checking our options, we were within hours of Dad moving into another facility. Then we heard about Almost Home.
“We dropped in unannounced, took a tour and said ‘this is it; this is where he belongs,’” she continued. “It is truly amazing how much better he is physically and mentally.”
Prior to the move, Struckhoff and her siblings had to wonder: Is he taking his medications? Did he fall? Was there food in the fridge? If so, did he feel like cooking and eating it?
“Those are worries we don’t have anymore,” Struckhoff said. “These needs are being met. This wonderful, caring staff loves him. Dad is safe and well taken care of.”
For example, she said, Thurman is a life-long asthmatic and has chronic lung problems. The staff is aware of this condition and is in regular contact with his local doctor.
“They know and we know what is going on all the time,” Struckhoff commented. “The low resident-to-staff ratio is a big thing. The caregivers here know Dad – his likes, dislikes and idiosyncrasies. This is huge for our family.”
Thurman noted that he especially enjoys the “homey atmosphere. Our meals are eaten around the table and the companionship is great.”
He also said that while he is thankful he lives at Almost Home, he appreciates that he and his family can go on outings. They were planning to at least run errands and eat lunch at a local restaurant during his daughter’s recent Struckhoff and her sister are registered nurses; this gives them special insight into the “exceptional care” their father receives, Struckhoff noted. All five children live in Kansas and Colorado.
Leilani Schenkel, Almost Home executive director, noted the first year has exceeded expectations. For example, there is a waiting list for residents and the number of employees has grown from 10 in the beginning to 25 today. The staff includes registered nurses, certified nurse’s aides and certified medication aides.
“We are grateful to the residents, their families and our board of directors,” Schenkel said. “And our staff is outstanding. They are committed and love what they do. They genuinely love these people.”
Schenkel noted that with today’s technology it is easy to stay in long-distance contact with families such as the Thurmans. Phone calls, text messages and emails are common.
“And if we have a special activity, I may send a photo to the family,” she said. “We hear all the time that the community is grateful for this option and our end-of-life care, when necessary. We are grateful to everyone for the overwhelming response to our mission of caring for people in a safe, comfortable home.”