Brewster Place staff: Choose a facility that feels like home

Needs of resident should determine level of care

For nearly two decades, Phyllis Landsford has been helping people who are considering transitioning into an independent or assisted living facility or long-term nursing home as the next stage of their lives.


When seniors come to Brewster Place, a faith-based, nonprofit senior care facility where Landsford has been a marketing consultant for the past 17 years, it’s often after a crisis has occurred in their lives, such as a debilitating illness or accident.

RELATED: Read more retirement stories in our special section here.

“Then everybody’s frantic, trying to figure out what to do, most especially the family,” she said.

It’s important for potential residents and their families to ask as many questions as possible before deciding to live in a facility like Brewster Place, Landsford said.

“A lot of times, we get people who sit there and say, ‘I’m new to this, I haven’t done this before. I don’t even know what to ask,’” she said. “I think that happens more than the ones who can really fire questions at you.”

Brewster Place’s goal is to help people live as independently as possible for as long as possible.

“Once we figure out what people need, sometimes it’s not what the children want,” she said. “You have to know what the parents really need to be successful.”

Landsford and Nancy Park, marketing coordinator at Brewster Place, spend the majority of their time listening to the needs of a potential resident or his or her family members, according to Claudia Larkin, vice president and chief operating officer at Brewster Place.

Related: See the digital copy of the 2016 Retirement Special Section here.

“Sometimes, they’ll spend 2½ hours with a family, just listening to their needs and what things they want to change,” Larkin said. “Once they have a feel for the expectations of the family, then they can start to match up parts of the campus with them. They really have to listen in order to make a good match for someone to be successful.”

Founded in 1964 by the Congregational churches in Topeka, Brewster Place is a “life plan community” with independent living, assisted living and long-term nursing units along the south side of S.W. 29th Street between S.W. Topeka Boulevard and Burlingame Road.

“It’s kind of a comprehensive model,” Larkin said, adding the facility has a high occupancy rate with 400 residents, most of whom reside in the independent living units.

The community also has 28 assisted living and 97 long-term beds.

Larkin said it’s important to choose a facility that feels like home, just like you would choose a home in the real estate market.

“You just know when you walk in, you know when you interact with the people whether it feels like home or not,” she said. “You just kind of know when it feels right.”

Landsford said one of the greatest challenges in visiting with potential residents and their families is getting them to realize that Brewster Place isn’t just a nursing home.

“It’s really about living their own lives, only somewhere where they know they’re going to get 24-hour help any time they need it,” she said. “That’s the major thing.”

Park knows first-hand the importance of finding a place where a loved one can thrive. Her 93-year-old mother, Maxine McDaniel, has lived at Brewster Place for 12 years and takes advantage of many of the facility’s social offerings, including tai chi and other exercise programs, access to library books and computers, cooking classes and field trips.

In addition to the myriad of activities that McDaniel said can keep a person “busy all the time,” she appreciates the safety and security aspects of the Brewster campus.

“I feel safe and help is available if I need it,” she said. “The security is great. We have our alarms … we can call for help and they find us wherever we are. I just think it’s a good place to be.”

Jim Banks, 77, said he moved to Brewster Place five years ago with the intention of making it his permanent home.

“I wanted to go someplace where I could stay the rest of my life,” he said.

“They have all levels of care here, so this will be my last move.”

Banks said he doesn’t regret the move to Brewster Place when he was still relatively young at the age of 71.

“So many people wait too long,” he said. “We come here to live.”

When potential residents or their families ask about costs of living at Brewster Place, Landsford explains there isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” plan.

“We try to show them what they get for what they pay for,” she said. “It depends on what their needs are, where they’re going. Everything is in black and white, but we prefer to be able to walk them through it. It’s just a process.”


RETIREMENT FACILITY DATABASE try{f_cbload("9b31100032f05f29ac3148648187","https:");}catch(v_e){;} Click here to load this Caspio Cloud Database Cloud Database by Caspio



Prime Time, a special section in Sunday, Oct. 10, 2016's issue of The Topeka Capital-Journal, explores the issues facing individuals as they approach retirement age, including downsizing and housing options, financial planning, questions to ask when transitioning into an independent living or assisted living facility and caregiving considerations.

The special section also features a directory of amenities at independent living and assisted living facilities in northeast Kansas, as well as a list of community resources that senior citizens and their families may find helpful. Additional stories and photos can be viewed at