Member Spotlight: Prairie Elder Care

When an elementary school teacher and an RN set out to combine their skills and talents in 2012, they wanted to do something that would help others. Sisters-in-law Mandy Shoemaker and Michala Gibson purchased Elder Care and Transitions Consulting LLC in 2013, a geriatric care management company. As they helped people navigate care for elderly, Mandy and Michala realized there was a need for dementia care that provided something different. They knew they could be different. In 2014, they founded Prairie Elder Care. “We want to minimize the stigma of dementia,” Shoemaker said recently. She and Gibson focus on community, connection, and control to engage their residents.

The first home opened in July 2014 and quickly filled to capacity with 8 residents. Now, they have four homes – two of which are part of the Prairie Farmstead, LLC. The Farmstead has chickens, goats, and a pig that residents interact with on a daily basis.

The interaction isn’t just with the animals. Prairie Elder Care also engages with local students. Once a week, the patients volunteer in a local pre-school classroom. They've also developed partnerships with elementary, middle, and high schools to teach students about dementia and interacting with those who are living with the disease. Prairie Elder Care even hosted a summer camp last year for 9- and 10-year olds. They learned about dementia and spent the day visiting residents in the four homes, as well as enjoying the farmstead with the residents.

In 2019, Prairie Elder Care was able to expand to a new location – this one acting as Johnson County’s only stand-alone licensed adult day care program. The education space also served as somewhat of a community center. Now, Prairie Elder Care serves as many as 15 participants three days a week and holds weekly community events for people living with dementia and their loved ones.

Prairie Elder Care stands out because of the focus on control. Shoemaker and Gibson believe a person living with dementia must feel in control in order to be engaged. By having staff proactively meet residents' needs, the men and women living with dementia can feel in control. The staff to resident ratio also allows the staff to easily meet the needs of the residents and get to know them well.

That staff comes from a wide variety of backgrounds. Some have emigrated to the U.S from countries such as Haiti and Kenya. Some come from low-income homes. Some come from high-income suburban homes. Many are single moms. Shoemaker and Gibson treat all employees equally. They provide each staff member a path to success through leadership training and financial literacy training. “We look at our staff and we ask what are the barriers they’re facing?” said Shoemaker. For some staff members, she says that can even be driving. "We drive people to work in the winter. We have a lot of our staff from countries where they've never driven in snow before and we want them to be safe.”

Prairie Elder Care and the other nine Top 10 Small Businesses will find out if they won the 2020 Mr. K Small Business of the Year at the Small Business Celebration Virtual Awards Event, Thursday October 15. Register here and come celebrate some of the best small businesses in Greater Kansas City. The Presenting Sponsor for the Awards is the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. Our 2020 Small Business Programming is presented by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City and Evergy. The CEO Level Sponsor is Honeywell.