Petey's Story

Anna Petey Cerf

Back in the late 1960s, a Lawrence, Kansas community activist by the name of “Petey” Cerf was doing her usual weekly book reading session for a bedridden nursing home resident when she heard another resident in a nearby room cry out for help. A nursing staff person, who was walking by the hurting resident, shouted back, “Shut up!” and kept on walking. Petey felt distressed at how roughly the nurse had treated the hurting resident. Two days later Petey was stunned to read the obituary of that same resident. Petey got angry and told all her friends what she had seen and heard. That was the start of the nursing home reform movement in Kansas.

By the early 1970s Petey had garnered active interest from more than 100 people across the state. Petey called a meeting in Wichita to discuss their concerns about the care being provided to nursing home residents. A committee of the group traveled across Kansas and visited several dozen nursing homes, taking notes at every stop. They saw abuse and neglect almost everywhere. They saw residents slumped in wheelchairs, groggy from drugs. They smelled urine soaked clothes on residents. They heard moans and crying from bedridden residents. The group testified to the Kansas Legislature and the Governor about the poor quality of care they observed. Petey’s group stated their mission as “advocating for quality long-term care.”

Elected leaders listened and believed. Some state laws for nursing home reform were passed. For example, now nurse aides are required to take 90 hours of training before they can provide direct care. The group incorporated as a non-profit and the momentum continued.

Forty years later Petey is gone but her legacy, Kansas Advocates for Better Care (KABC), remains a strong consumer voice for residents of licensed adult care homes and for older adults receiving care in their homes in Kansas. We must continue the mission. Of the nearly 19,000 nursing home residents in 2015, there are about 5,000 who live with poor quality care. Join us. Call KABC call toll-free 800-525-1782 or in Lawrence at 842-3088. Email us at