Category Archives: Life at VPC

Her safe, healing touch

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Heather Frieden serves many roles for Vista Prairie at Fieldcrest in Sheldon, Iowa. She’s the lead care coordinator, managing 30 of the staff and also a certified restorative aide. Three months ago, coronavirus precautions forced Fieldcrest to lose access to its beloved contract beauticians and the rest of the outside world. Heather stepped up to fill part of the void — as she’s doing in the photo for Margaret, a nine-year resident.

“I’ve been washing and setting hair every day, and some of them are in tears when I get done,” Heather reports. “They tell me, ‘you don’t know how good this makes me feel.’”

Fieldcrest plans to reopen the salon when it’s safe, according to the Iowa reopening plan. Heather doesn’t use the salon, nor does she cut hair or offer other services that a registered beautician would. She comes by hair care naturally, as her mom was a beautician.

Heather’s volunteer service fits her dedication to healing touch. In her certified restorative aide role, she frequently visits individual apartments to guide exercises, including a resistant bike, and tethered walks up and down the hallways. The restorative program is unique in the area. While it’s not physical therapy, it is more extensive than the routine movement exercise activities offered by many assisted living communities.

“I do a lot of movement with residents on their legs, and arms and hips, to keep them flexible,” Heather explains. “I bond with them.  We’re together for a half hour so we chat and I learn about their life.”

Heather is recertified annually as part of her training. While she’s doing the restorative work, Heather is in a full gown and face shield – part of Fieldcrest’s precaution to protect residents from getting sick. 

“They’ve gotten really close to me and can’t wait for their day to exercise,” Heather reflects. And about the resident assistants she supervises, “Our staff has stuck it out. We’re just in it together.”

Fieldcrest Assisted Living offers 69 one- and two-bedroom apartments for seniors who value a variety of ways to spread joy, and want access to personal care and supportive services. We also hope you’ll visit our 12 memory care suites that provide a long-term option for seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.

A kinder sort of wind

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A kinder wind - June 15 blog

Vonnie and Roger had no choice about finding another place to live 22 years ago, when an F4 tornado left their home in ruins, along with most of Comfrey in southern Minnesota’s Brown County.

Just one-minute after the severe weather siren sounded, 75 percent of Comfrey was severely damaged or destroyed. They were not injured but given their memories of such a mean-spirited wind, it’s fitting that the peaceful surroundings of Windmill Ponds in Alexandria eventually became home, a year ago.

They’ve been married for 73 years, and since they went together in high school, Roger points out, they’ve been a couple for 75 years. They initially set up housekeeping on the family farm with no electricity or indoor plumbing. Those hardships didn’t delay starting a family, which eventually grew to four children.

Kids were always part of Vonnie’s life, not only her own and their offspring, but the kids she helped mold as a 25-year teacher’s aide in the Comfrey public school. “The teachers were so good,” Vonnie remembers. “I still get letters from one of them.”

Their children helped engineer the Windmill Ponds transition, first by moving Vonnie and Roger’s furniture into their new apartment… “and then they told us to come and look at it,” Vonnie says. They also convinced Roger, now 92, to give up his car. “I swallowed my pride and gave up the driving,” he adds. About their Windmill Ponds experience, Roger reports, “All the people are so pleasant, and the food is good.”

Windmills Ponds offers assisted living in 65 one- and two-bedroom apartments, designed for seniors who enjoy an active social environment and expect high quality care.

Faithful

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Roger and Jeanette recently celebrated 65 years of marriage. They’re happily married after all these years, but they live separately at Goldfinch Estates in Fairmont. Roger has lived in an assisted living apartment since September 2019, while Jeanette has received care in the memory unit since the previous March, following a head injury.

Roger visits her every day, often having the noon meal with her. “The only problem I have is when I leave,” Roger reflects. “She says, ‘I’m going with you,’ and I say, ‘You can’t Mother.’” And then he returns to his apartment through the corridor that separates the two units.

He feels secure at Goldfinch. “I’m getting along fine,” Roger says. “You can’t get out and get around. You gotta stay in, but I understand.” After an initial COVID-19 spike in Fairmont’s Martin County, the number of cases has leveled off.   Goldfinch Estates itself, remains COVID free as of June 1. 

Now 88, Roger worked in agriculture for most of his life, first for Green Giant. More recently he partnered with his father to deliver gasoline to farmers for Standard Oil, in a business that operated in northern Iowa for 50 years. 

About the quality of the care he gets at Goldfinch, “They do a good job,” says Roger. The community offers 92 one and two-bedroom apartments for seniors who want access to supportive services. We also offer 41 memory care suites that provide a long-term option for seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.

Tapping experience and a service heart

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Mary Lou has seen some of this before, back in the 1970s. That experience motivates her to deliver meals to fellow residents of Vista Prairie at River Heights. Her years helping to operate the Lakeview residence in Virginia, on Minnesota’s Iron Range, provide perspective for the needs where she lives now in South St Paul.

“We had 18 or 19 residents living on three floors, no elevators and no air conditioning,” Mary Lou recalls about her days in Virginia. “We did 24-hour care — food was provided, medications, outings. It was like an assisted living facility.”

She and her husband were both registered nurses, working in Minneapolis, “We went to Lake Vermillion on a vacation and absolutely fell in love with the area. Within six months we were up North.”

And six years later, they owned the Lakeview residence. With her added experience owning and running a restaurant in nearby Biwabik, volunteering to help at River Heights amid the added food service responsibilities is a “no-brainer.”

“I live here, and I’m pretty much available,” she says. “I decided I would offer my services and they could utilize me.”

An accident in her Biwabik home compelled the assisted living move for Mary Lou. Her son and daughter-in-law, back in the Twin Cities, convinced her that being closer was better than being four hours away. “My son is wonderful support,” she says. “He and his wife and my two grandchildren keep me active and alive and happy.”

Mary Lou says she also enjoys seeing fellow residents on a different basis when she puts on her mask and delivers a meal. “We’re seeing each other more than just at activities or in the dining room. We talk about things every time I visit.”

The gardens at River Heights are coming alive again this spring. And inside, this warm and welcoming community offers assisted living in 44 apartments, as well as 16 memory care suites. Want to learn more about River Heights? Call Danielle at 651-326-6501.

Lessons from a quarantine past

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Here’s Culinary Manager Amanda Sundrin as she delivers a snack to Anitra, a resident of Vista Prairie at Copperleaf in Willmar. She and her late husband Duane moved in three years ago, following Anitra’s retirement as an elementary school teacher in several nearby communities.

She recently began life’s journey as a single woman again since Duane’s death last December, after being together for 69 years. However, in all her 94 years, it’s probably her experience one spring as a pre-teen that prepared her best for this pandemic experience.

“I had scarlet fever and our family was quarantined,” Anitra recalls. “We could not go anyplace. My older sister had to move out and live with my Aunt, because she was going to graduate from high school that year. My mother had to keep my dishes separate from everybody else and she would leave my meals at the top of the stairs.”

Those childhood memories give Anitra perspective on why Copperleaf is taking the precaution now to deliver meals and snacks to each resident’s apartment.

“It’s a very nice thing that they are doing, to keep us distancing,” she says. “Those culinary workers make sure that we have what we need and what we want. They are wonderful people.”

Before his death, Duane’s dementia made it necessary for him to live in Copperleaf’s memory care unit, a painful separation for Anitra. Her community of support means a lot to her.

“I have nothing but praise for the staff here at Copperleaf,” she concludes. “Not just now with this virus but from the minute we moved in, everything has been just wonderful.”

Copperleaf senior living community offers 55 one-and-two-bedroom Assisted Living apartments, seven Care Suites, providing 24-hour continuous senior care, and 20 Memory Care Suites.