Trust

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During their 70-year marriage and then some, Shirley and Ken have trusted each other in their most important decisions. They placed their trust in their daughter three years ago when they moved into Vista Prairie at Monarch Meadows in North Mankato, MN. Now 92, they look back on a life raising two girls and two boys, who have reciprocated with 14 grandchildren and 20 great grandchildren, one of whom just entered college.

Most of Shirley and Ken’s working lives were spent operating a fourth-generation dairy farm in Nicollet County, where they milked 50 cows, raised chickens, and tended a variety of crops. Shirley says she particularly enjoyed raising 1,000 chickens and working in the fields. When it was time to slow down and hand over the farm to younger operators they decided to move to an apartment, where they lived for 12 years. Then came the decision to seek out assisted living.

“We decided to move ourselves,” Shirley says, “then our daughter started looking around and she thought this sounded good.” That was four months before the pandemic struck. While they stayed in touch by phone, Ken and Shirley agree it was a difficult time not seeing their family.

In hindsight, they’re happy they made the move when they did, including giving up their car, which they were still driving when they moved to Monarch Meadows.

Now, visiting is back in full swing. And when there’s no active COVID-19 outbreak to stifle, the community offers a well subscribed menu of activities from outings to the ever-popular bingo, Shirley’s favorite. Ken says he likes everything about the regular exercise program that Monarch Meadows provides, “It’s helping me with my balance,” he says.

The ultimate in trust for Ken and Shirley is their faith in God. Shirley describes her faith as part of her purpose now, “We’re supposed to talk about it to other people,” she says, “that the Lord is good.”

Thanks, Shirley and Ken for living your purpose, through trust.

Vista Prairie at Monarch Meadows offers 87 one-and-two-bedroom assisted living apartments and 11 care suites. We also provide two respite suites, for short-term care when home caregivers need a break. Call (507) 933-4681 to book a tour.

Clear Vision

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Milady Imdieke envisioned her career in health care early, in a life that has taken her through two countries and four states. Last May, she assumed her current position as the Director of Health Services for Vista Prairie at Windmill Ponds in Alexandria, MN.

Born in the Dominican Republic, she and her mother moved to Miami when she was six months old. There, they joined her physician father who was in the process of obtaining his license to practice medicine in the U.S. Her father’s medical residencies progressed through New York and Pennsylvania, eventually recruited to a clinic in Todd County’s Long Prairie, MN when she was in the third grade.

“My dad always wanted to practice rural medicine and experience the four seasons,” Milady explains, “So, Long Prairie it was.”

A Registered Nurse for four years, Milady and her father are now health care colleagues, especially as information about the Pandemic became more complex. “There was so much information out there,” she remembers. “I went to my dad, ‘What are you seeing? What are your journals telling you?’”

Milady was wooed to work for Windmill Ponds, more than three times larger than the community in nearby Clarissa, MN where she worked before. “Here, I get to interact with all the residents and see what’s going on with them.”

Milady likes everything about the job, including her leadership role at Windmill Ponds. But it’s the relationships with residents that she relishes most. “They sit and talk about their life, from the very beginning to the medical issues that are going on with them now,” she says. And it’s not only health issues. Once that trust is established, Milady says she also enjoys helping residents with other issues, including to make sense of their new smart phone.

Milady is a student again, as well as a practitioner. She’s about halfway to earning her BSN (Bachelor of Sciences in Nursing), taking on-line courses at the University of Mary in North Dakota. Windmill Ponds has a scholarship grant from the Minnesota Department of Health that will pay for those expenses as she completes her BSN.

Somehow, Milady juggles it all, studying some of each day and all day on the weekends. “I make a big pot of coffee and just do everything.” But it’s fulfilling her career vision. “I want to stay in patient care,” she says. “I really do like geriatrics.”

Vista Prairie at Windmill 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.

A legacy that keeps giving

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Juanita Schmeeckle’s big heart and keen intellect live on in annual grants provided for Martin County nonprofits. Vista Prairie at Goldfinch Estates is connected in more than one way to Juanita’s legacy. Juanita made Goldfinch Estates her home in 2009. Mary Larson remembers accompanying Goldfinch’s nurse to Juanita’s home at that time, to assess her care needs.

“She lived a very modest, low key and private life,” says Mary, who recently retired as the Goldfinch Estates Community Sales and Marketing Manager. “She was an amazingly intelligent lady. She was very well traveled and had a style of her own!”

Before she moved-in to Goldfinch Estates, Juanita and a group of trustees established the Schmeeckle Foundation. The organization ensured that Juanita’s estate would be used to enrich lives through “innovation and creative collaboration,” as the website says. The Foundation’s Martin County focus includes early childhood care and education, people who are disabled and elderly, and the arts.

A second connection came in 2020 as Goldfinch Estates was honored to receive one of the Foundation’s grants. “The grant assisted us with career development, convenience services and support programs,” said Executive Director Kacey Kasel. “As a result, staff retention has increased and our need to bring in staff from outside agencies was drastically reduced, allowing our residents to be cared for by local staff who know their needs best.”

Goldfinch Estates is proud to be part of Juanita Schmeeckle’s legacy and her foresight. “Thank you, Kacey, and the rest of your staff for the care you give to the residents of Goldfinch,” said Shirley Maschoff, one of the Foundation’s trustees. “Juanita was very well cared for during the time she spent in your memory care unit, and we appreciate it.”

Specifically, the foundation grant funded a generous tuition assistance program that provided support for seven Resident Assistants to become Certified Nursing Assistants through the Minnesota Department of Health. Front-line staff also got recognition through programs like Employee of the Month. Finally, meals were made available to front-line staff by Goldfinch’s culinary staff to assist with the challenges of long duty shifts.

The community offers 92 one and two-bedroom apartments for seniors who want access to supportive services while maintaining their independence. We also offer 41 memory care suites that provide a long-term option for seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.

On the air

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Julie Wohlman, a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) for Vista Prairie at Garnette Gardens in Redwood Falls, MN, will celebrate her 60th birthday in style this month. She’s on the air, talking about how much she loves her job in her first six months on Garnette’s staff. Julie says it all came about from a question.

“A resident asked me how I liked working here,” Julie recalls. “I said ‘I love it here.’ She says, ‘Do they treat you well?’ and I said, ‘Oh yes, they treat us very well here.’” One thing led to another and before she knew it, she was recording this spot for a KLGR radio ad.

A mother of four and stepmother for three more, Julie said she’d always been interested in health care. She served at an area nursing home but found the job too physically taxing. After working in retail for a couple years, her husband suggested she apply for an opening at Garnette Gardens, noting the differences between a nursing home and the responsibilities in assisted living and memory care.  It was the right decision.

“The residents are just awesome,” Julie notes. “I love to listen to their stories. They talk about what it was like ‘back in the day,’ and we have a lot in common.”

While she grew up in the Twin Cities, Julie lives on a farm now and says she enjoys talking about farming with the residents. She says service for residents is what keeps her at Garnette Gardens. And the residents are clearly happy she’s part of the community. “We have one resident who just loves to tease me,” she says, “and you just have to give it back.”

The community offers 62 one and two-bedroom apartments for seniors who also value their independence but need options for personal care and supportive services. We also offer 16 memory care suites. Nine care suites round out the options, offering a higher level of assisted living care and supervision.

Excursions

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Larry and Sylvia have enjoyed most of their excursions since they moved into Vista Prairie at Brentwood in Rice Lake, Wisconsin last May. By far, their favorite was to the Northern Wisconsin Veterans Memorial Cemetery, north of Rice Lake near Spooner. Sylvia has been there three times, and Larry twice.

“Stuck out among all the trees and cornfields is this beautiful tribute to the people in our country who have given their lives,” Sylvia says. “It was nice to see that it had that much impact on the locals and other people. You didn’t have to be from here.”

Following Sylvia’s solo introduction as part of an organized Brentwood trip, she and Larry went back to the cemetery* the next day. They also put it on the agenda for a visit from old friends from Madison, where Larry and Sylvia spent their working years and raised their kids.

Another excursion wasn’t quite what Sylvia expected. Curious about the borders of Brentwood’s hilltop property, she ventured out the back door for what she thought would be a short walk, without telling Larry or anyone else what she was up to. She soon was headed out of sight and down a hillside, which at the age of 86, was too steep for her to climb back up. “It wasn’t getting any better,” Sylvia recalls, “and finally I got tired, and I sat down on the grass and scooted along — all the way to the end of the property, which is where the staff found me.”

Picking up the story, Larry had become concerned when Sylvia did not appear for lunch. Among her other actions, Brentwood’s Executive Director, Rita Gronski had alerted the couple’s son Dane, an executive at WJMC Radio in Rice Lake, who headed over to the community. Activities Manager, Lee Ann Kritch, jumped in her car while other staffers looked closer to the building. Lee Ann soon spotted Sylvia from the car; Sylvia got in, and all was well.

After four months at Brentwood, Sylvia acknowledges the good food, the staff’s kindness, and the cleanliness of the community. But she stresses that initially, she did not want to leave the home she and Larry had built for their retirement years.

“I’d rather be somewhere else,” Sylvia says, “where I don’t know. The place that I loved is gone. So, it’s having to wrestle with those emotions. And they’re so extreme.”

Larry, at age 88, was more open to their life-changing excursion from the Madison area to Rice Lake. “Sooner or later, this decision had to be made,” he says. “You can’t live and support yourself your whole life. At some point, you need assisted living if you’re going to live to a big age.”

The Brentwood community offers options for residents on all sides of that spectrum, with 28 one and two-bedroom apartments for seniors who want options for personal care and supportive services along with their freedom of movement. We also offer 19 memory care suites that provide a long-term option for seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.

*Photo reprint with permission from the Spooner Advocate.