Author Archives: Jeff Smith

Compassion and Joy Without Walls

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Hands

Sorta like getting a sample at the ice cream shop, to learn if you like a flavor before you order two scoops. Wouldn’t it be great if you or a loved-one could do that with assisted living? Now you can, in two of our Minnesota communities.

Garnette Gardens in Redwood Falls and Monarch Meadows in North Mankato are piloting an innovative new service providing a low-cost preview of life as a resident. In both communities the service goes under the name “Senior Social Club.”

“We wanted to give folks a taste of what it might be like to live with us,” said Sales and Community Marketing Manager Colleen Marcus from Garnette Gardens.

Click on the two links above for details. Here are some of the common features in the two communities:

  • Transportation two days each week
  • A monthly meal plan with up to 10 meals per month
  • Participation in scheduled events at the community
  • Monthly home check-ins from a senior service professional
  • Seasonal “Wellness Gift Basket” for program participant

“The aging population is at risk for social isolation or loneliness,” says Monarch Meadows Executive Director Rachael Evers. “This is our way to provide an active and engaged lifestyle to those who are a part of our greater community.”

Interested?  Learn more online or on the communities’ Facebook pages or call (507) 644-8500 in Redwood Falls or (507) 344-0059 in North Mankato.

The service is the brainchild of Redwood Falls Executive Director Natalie Seehausen. “We know the decision to move from a long-time home is overwhelming and emotional,” Natalie reflects. “As we heard over and over … ‘I am just not ready.’ These programs will cultivate relationships with other residents that will change the decision from a NEED to move, to a WANT to move.”

Hail to Our Nurses

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GG nurses - Marlys Skoblik, RN, Amber Demuth, LPN, Sandy Lund, LPN Bottom left to right Courtney Rohlik, RN, Lynn Buckley, LPN, and Jenn Panitzke, RN

We recently celebrated Nurses Week for 2019. Marlys Skoblik (upper left corner) is an example of the longevity and dedication of the 25 nurses employed at all Vista Prairie Communities. Marlys has been a nurse for more than 40 years. In the photo, she’s pictured with her nurse colleagues at Garnette Gardens in Redwood Falls, where she has served since 2012.  Together, these six nurses have 146 years of experience in caring for patients in a variety of settings.

Next to Marlys is Licensed Practical Nurse Amber Demuth and LPN Sandy Lund; (bottom left to right) Registered Nurse Courtney Rohlik, LPN Lynn Buckley, who manages Garnette Gardens Memory Care, and Registered Nurse Jenn Panitzke, who is Garnette’s Director of Health Services.

Marlys serves primarily in the 15-unit Memory Care area, where the community’s highest level of care takes place, and in the Care Suites. She describes how they ask the families of Memory Care residents to complete questionnaires to help learn what has been important in their loved ones’ lives. In the nine Care Suites residents can generally converse about their histories, but each has unique physical challenges.

“We assess everybody very individually with the ultimate goal of making sure that we can meet their needs,” Marlys added. “They have lived a long time and during all those years, they had experiences and they had relationships and they had everything that makes a life.  Just holding a hand, being with somebody, shows them they have value.”

She also emphasized the importance of getting to know residents’ families and how grateful they are for the compassionate care provided for their loved ones.

Our Organizational Director of Health Care, Melissa Plachecki, a 25-year nurse herself, summed up the profession well, “To answer the call of nursing is a true vocation. Few careers offer the holistic opportunities that nursing provides. To be a nurse is an honor and a privilege.”

Purpose Does Not Equal Perfection

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Connie Platz

Connie’s life purpose is to help people, even though she’s not living out that purpose as a nurse, like she planned. In the early ‘80s when she and her twin sister were in nursing school in St. Cloud, there was scant information about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), a condition they were later diagnosed to have.

“When we read about it in our abnormal psychology nursing books, there wasn’t much written about OCD,” Connie recalls. “In school we were told that OCD was caused by ‘an overanxious family environment.’ We’ve come full circle, because OCD is now understood as a biological chemical imbalance in the brain.”

At the relatively young age of 55, after losing her marriage, leaving the nursing profession and the frustrations of cycling through job after job, Connie’s mother suggested moving into an assisted living community. Vista Prairie at Monarch Meadows in North Mankato has become a significant part of her OCD therapy, funded through government disability payments.  She had tried almost all the different medications for OCD. She did months of in-patient behavior therapy and underwent deep brain stimulation surgery, which uses a brain implant. Nothing worked long-term.

Since her move in March, Connie has high hopes that Monarch Meadows is the answer she has sought for more than 30 years. She describes the resident assistants as her “coaches and cheerleaders,” all at the same time, “Since I moved here, there’s quite a difference. When my mother asks how I’m doing, I say ‘I’m doing good mom!’”

Connie’s OCD will never go away, but she can cope much better now, with the friendships she has and 24-hour support. “I still worry about making mistakes,” she says. “It’s like having a battle in your brain all of the time.”

Connie stays in close contact with her sister, who lives in New Ulm. The two turned their disability into service, offering workshops for health care professionals titled, “Double the Trouble, the Troubling Effects of OCD.”

“We wanted to speak at schools but at the time the schools were saying, ‘how can you talk about a mental illness when you’re mentally ill yourself.’ The reason we wanted to approach schools is because OCD can hit at a young age. If you can catch it early, while their brains are still developing, they can get help quicker,” Connie explains.

Connie’s most recent workshop about the complexities of OCD was for the Monarch Meadows staff.  “We like to get the word out and educate people about OCD, so that there isn’t so much stigma.”

Character and Grit

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Lawrence and Irene at the Twins - for blog

Irene and Lawrence Cline are a team who epitomize the character and grit of the “greatest generation.” The Clines were in the spotlight at this year’s home opener for the Minnesota Twins.  Lawrence, a World War II Army veteran who turned 100 last September, was invited to be the honorary flag raiser during the National Anthem.  Irene, 93, was by his side as she has been for all their 70 years of marriage.

The front page of the Alexandria Echo Press covered what the flag raising honor meant to Lawrence and Irene, who described their latest adventure together, “I’m a pusher. We’ve never sat around. We are always on the go.”

“You raised that flag faster than any other honoree I’ve seen,” commented a veteran Twins staffer after the ceremony. It was just the latest recognition for superlative service in Lawrence’s long life. During his deployment to Australia in the Army Signal Corp, he was awarded the Bronze Star for his service as an enemy code-breaker.

Our Vista Prairie Community in Alexandria, MN, has been home for Lawrence and Irene for more than three years. Their life at Windmill Ponds caps Lawrence’s post-war work experience at Northern Pacific Railroad, Western Union, Soo Line Railroad and FMC.