Still teaching, still learning

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Le is learning how to better navigate her cell phone, a constant companion. She moved to Vista Prairie at Fieldcrest in Sheldon, Iowa to be closer to two sisters and her physician, as they assist her in navigating the challenges of Parkinson’s Disease. That also is a constant learning experience.

She got her education degree at Augustana in Sioux Falls, SD, and for more than 30 years taught special education in a small school district in northern Minnesota, Kindergarten through high school. She and her ex-husband, also a teacher, lived and taught in Orr, MN, the gateway to Voyageur’s National Park.

“We lived in 10 acres of woods,” Le recounts. “We heated by wood and sawed our own lumber. At times we drug eight-foot lengths out of the forest.” It was a family affair, putting up wood for the winter, usually many cords for each heating season. They also had a large garden and butchered their own chickens.

Five years ago, Le traded tall trees for tall corn in northwest Iowa, where she’s now better equipped to cope with her Parkinson’s Disease. She’s hoping there will be some lessons from her trials for her two sisters and two brothers who are all younger.

Le devoted her entire career to helping kids with disabilities. Now, at the age of 77, she’s devoted to managing her own disability, “I try to do as many of my exercises as I can.” She says that while she would like access to a therapeutic heated swimming pool, the Fieldcrest community is meeting her psychosocial needs and it’s great to be close to family.

Fieldcrest offers 69 one- and two-bedroom assisted living apartments for seniors who need access to personal care and supportive services. We also offer 12 memory care suites that provide a long-term option for seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.

Dazzling bouquets

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The brilliant dahlia next to Shari Rich is just one of the dazzling bouquets gracing dining tables at Vista Prairie at Monarch Meadows in North Mankato, MN. As the community’s activities manager, Shari recently collaborated with area gardener Sharon Chader on a joy-filled event.

“She has a huge garden full of flowers,” Shari explained. “She calls it ‘Lessons from the Garden.’ She donates all these flowers, and she doesn’t want to take anything home with her. She gives a little lesson as she’s putting bouquets together, and then she turns it over to the residents.”

Click here to see the result on Facebook. It’s Sharon’s ministry of beauty. It’s Shari’s way to help residents thrive.

“It was so much fun,” Shari says, beaming. “The joy on their faces… people who don’t usually smile… ‘just look at what I have,’” they say.

Events like this are just one of many ways Shari helps residents find their smiles and joy. She and her activities assistants conduct daily exercise for better physical health. And she’s an entertainer as well, with an unusual talent. Twenty-five years ago, she and her late husband got involved in puppet ministry in their church.

“We took our puppet team to a festival in the Twin Cities,” Shari remembers. “I saw someone do ventriloquism and I was hooked.”

These days, Shari uses her menagerie of puppets for her ventriloquist routines, “Mine are all animals, except for a pink girl, one of three main puppets,” she says. “There’s also a skunk; her name is Daisy. She’s fabulous. And then my alligator, the residents are going to meet this month.”

Shari concludes that when Monarch Meadows residents thrive, they are the dazzling bouquets for her.

“I like to find out what interests them, what their past interests were,” Shari explains. “Seeing their faces light up when they see you, that is just amazing. It’s about making a difference in their lives. I love it.”

One of our largest communities, 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 Maddy at (507) 933-4681 to book a tour.

Keeps on Ticking

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Maxine has been through her share of difficulties in the last four months, but you wouldn’t know it from her smile. The photo was taken as she had boarded a pontoon for a ride on Alexandria’s Lake Victoria. It’s again a regular activities option for Vista Prairie at Windmill Ponds.

Maxine, now 91, has been back at Windmill Ponds since June, following minor injuries from a fall. Her accident meant she’d need to go to a skilled nursing facility for rehab. While there she experienced more health problems that sent her back to the hospital in April and May.

Maxine says she needed to do “a lot of exercising” to regain her strength to be discharged from the nursing home and rejoin her friends at Windmill Ponds. “Everyone is so attentive here,” she says. It was worth the effort, “I love the staff,” she says and all the things to do.

“I’ve had a really busy morning,” Maxine remembers, “and I like that to keep busy.” The morning started with exercise for a half hour. Then she got in a little nap before lunch, followed by a worship service.

“I had never heard one of their services before and I thought he did a very, very good job.” While the service might not replicate her home church, Maxine agrees with her two daughters that it was time for her to seek a higher level of care than they could provide in her home, even though they lived on either side of her house in Alexandria. “Especially after that fall, I realized I should not be by myself anymore. I don’t think I could be in a better place.”

And as for the pontoon ride? “I thought it was great. I’ve been around Lake Victoria many, many times but you still see new things. It was a great boat ride.”

The pontoon rides are courtesy of the nonprofit Let’s Go Fishing program, with generous support from area businesses. 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.

Head and Heart

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Rachelle Strasburg’s grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease at the early age of 64. And while the family was heartbroken by that news, the diagnosis helped launch Rachelle on an exploration of learning and purpose.

Rachelle converted her personal experience with her grandmother to an 18-year career in caregiving and relationship building, which has now evolved to being named Vista Prairie’s first Vice President of Sales and Marketing. In the newly created position, Rachelle will work with leaders in each of our communities to connect with potential new residents.

“With a heart for service and a passion to transform aging services, I am dedicated to collaboration, creativity, and growth in all the work I do,” Rachelle said when accepting the position.

She began her senior care journey working as a caregiver at a senior living company in Rochester, MN. It was there that she knew her life would always involve serving the older adult population. Rachelle worked as a manager in residential memory care and later transitioned into 55-plus Independent Living Property Management. As she gained knowledge about the sector, she found that she was naturally skilled in sales and marketing.

“I learned a lot about aging services and really enjoyed the sales and marketing aspect of the business,” she says. “Understanding the customer journey and creating thoughtful content, resources and campaigns around it is my favorite part of what I do.”

Among her accolades, Rachelle completed the LeadingAge MN Leadership Academy in 2019 and the organization’s Sales and Marketing in Senior Housing Certification program. She studied business administration at North Hennepin Community College and business management at the University of Minnesota.

Welcome aboard Rachelle!

Memories

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Bob is sitting in a chair that brings back loving memories. It’s the first chair he and Hazel bought, early in their 73-year marriage. Bob crossed the 100-year-old threshold last year. With Hazel’s passing two years ago, the chair provides comfort in their apartment at Vista Prairie at Goldfinch Estates in Fairmont, MN.

Bob’s service in the Pacific during World War II earned him his accounting degree on the GI-Bill, from the University of Minnesota. Hazel and Bob met in St. Paul while both worked for the Internal Revenue Service, he as an auditor and she in administration.

Following some IRS transfers, they eventually established an accounting practice in Fairmont. He and Hazel worked side-by-side for 47 years, helping hundreds of area farmers, businesses and individuals with their taxes and other accounting needs. The domestic and business partnership worked. “When Hazel and I had a disagreement, I went for a long walk,” Bob says. “That took care of it.”

Bob remembers vivid details about a boyhood that contributed to his work-ethic and values, as the eldest child in a family of six, “As I grew older, I assumed more of the work around the house,” he recalls. “I scrubbed the kitchen floors, the bathroom, did the laundry.”

Bob remains in the same Goldfinch Estates apartment that he and Hazel moved to 12 years ago. “Hazel liked the apartment,” Bob noted. “We were very comfortable there. It worked out very well.”

Goldfinch 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.