Moving his mother to a nursing home was one of the hardest decisions Terry and Gay Cummins of Iuka had to make. Pratt has good nursing homes, but they think they have a better answer. They have put everything they own, plus a bank loan, on the line to construct and operate what the Kansas Department of Aging calls a home-plus facility.

Construction began on Cummins Country Care, a 2400 square foot home at 519 Eastland Avenue, in early October. They expect to begin caring for up to eight residents by early to mid-February. They plan to hire 12 full-time employees, with two staff members on duty at all times, Gay Cummins said.

"This is the next step up from assisted living," she explained. "When a person can no longer care for themselves in assisted living, this is another option besides a nursing home."

She has completed requirements for certification as the operator and is also a registered nurse. Terry Cummins will take on the maintenance duties. Daughter Brandi Cummins, who is currently a certified medication aide (CMA), is working towards a nursing degree. The family expects that she will be the future of Cummins Country Care when her parents are ready to retire.

"It's the better way; more homey," Brandi said, basing her answer on work experience in home-plus homes in Wichita.

Gay Cummins has worked in hospitals and nursing homes, but knew nothing about a home-plus.

"When I heard about it, I fell in love with the model," she said. "I'm real excited Pratt will have this as an option for the elderly, because they deserve the best care possible."

It's smaller and quieter than a traditional nursing home. Fewer staff members mean more continuity for residents. They will be able to work closely with residents on their interests, like taking them fishing at the lake or to ball games, Cummins said. Families tend to visit more in small homes.

"Running it will be easier than putting it together," she believes.

First, she had a hard time explaining what a home-plus is. After three years of research, she's familiar with the features, but lenders were wary. Then there was the problem of finding a large enough lot in a nice neighborhood. The two lots at Eastland Avenue provide room for expansion, which they plan in a year or so. Building codes had to be adapted to fit the situation.

"We've jumped though a lot of hoops to get to here," said Jeff Pyles, the general contractor who has been working with the family and the architect for six to eight months to make the best choices for residents and staff.

Kansas has about 100 home-plus facilities, Cummins said, mostly in metropolitan areas. The closest ones to Pratt are in Larned, Cheney and Hoisington. As a regional hub, she believes Pratt is the ideal location for their new venture.