Health Care

Nursing home alternative new to Kansas City area lets seniors live on their own

Look inside this new nursing home alternative in KCK

An elder care company has been approved by the federal and state government to be a one-stop shop for frail residents of Wyandotte County to get social and medical services
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An elder care company has been approved by the federal and state government to be a one-stop shop for frail residents of Wyandotte County to get social and medical services

Bruce Johnson sunk two out of three putts Friday on the small replica green set up at a Midland Care day facility for seniors in Kansas City, Kan.

That may not sound remarkable, unless you know his medical history.

Johnson has survived a half-dozen strokes that affected his ability to speak and walk and threatened to land him in a nursing home last year even though he’s only 64. The Midland Care facility allowed Johnson to continue living on his own, said his cousin, Broderick Crawford.

“If you would have seen him two years ago, this is not what you would have seen,” Crawford said. “Him being a part of this has not only helped him just with his mental outlook, but also physically. He couldn’t walk and move around like he does now and that’s all been a part of the enhanced services he receives here.”

The Midland Care facility is part of Programs of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly, or PACE, a federal effort to give frail seniors an alternative to nursing homes.

Facilities that are approved for PACE are paid a flat rate for each participant and then are required to provide all of the services the participants need to keep living at home, whether that’s physical therapy, transportation to doctor’s appointments, meals or help showering.

PACE programs have to be approved on a county-by-county basis by both the state and federal government. They’ve been around for more than a decade, but Midland Care is the first company approved for it in the Kansas City area. Their program is now available to residents of Wyandotte and Leavenworth counties, as well as counties around Topeka and Lawrence. The company hopes to expand to Johnson County and the surrounding area soon.

There are no PACE-approved companies in Missouri.

Bruce Johnson was the first client when Midland Care opened its PACE day facility in Kansas City, Kan., last year. Heath Rath, the facility site manager, said there are now 17 clients and they’re expecting another three to start next month.

Midland Care accepts private pay, but the vast majority of its clients are people on both Medicare and Medicaid, Rath said.

The company’s two-story day center at 818 Ann Ave. has a residential feel on the ground floor, with a small kitchen and cafeteria, a breakfast nook with two computers, handicapped-accessible showers and restrooms and the carpeted sitting room with the fake putting green.

The clinical side is on the second floor, with three examination rooms and a physical therapy gym.

The center is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and PACE clients can come and go as they please, with transportation provided. There’s a registered nurse and a physical therapist on site, as well as lower-level direct care staff. Clients can get breakfast, lunch and an afternoon snack there.

“We try to make the day center kind of their space,” Rath said. “We want to make it enjoyable because the more frequently they come to the day center, the better the health outcomes.”

Johnson comes twice a week for physical therapy and lunch. He’s the former girls golf coach at Central High School, which is why the center ended up with the putting green.

“I mentioned it to the wellness coordinator and she brought it over from Lawrence,” Johnson said. “Once I finish with my physical therapy upstairs, I come down here.”

Crawford said that a year ago he and other family members were checking in on Johnson regularly at his apartment in Bentley Park Plaza, but struggling to provide the intense support he needed.

The regular mental and physical stimulation he’s gotten since starting PACE has made him more independent and taken a load off both him and his family.

“Each time we see him he looks better and better; I even told him that the other day,” Crawford said. “He’s getting back to the old Bruce Johnson.”