Category Archives: Aging Resources

An oasis in the side pocket

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Here’s a riddle. When can a pool table be a concession for both candy and hair conditioner? Vista Prairie at Fieldcrest in Sheldon, Iowa has the answer. Once a month, Jan, a four-year Fieldcrest resident converts the community’s game room pool table to a pop-up store covered with convenience items that residents want most.

Fieldcrest activities manager Judy Wallace remembers Jan’s reaction when she recruited her to manage the store, “She said ‘Yes I’ll do it. I think it’ll be fun.’ Toothbrushes and toothpaste, those are the necessities, but the candy is what really flies out of there,” Judy reports.

Initially, it was fun for Jan and for the residents to have another outlet, “It gets them out of their apartments to another area to socialize. Seeing other people helps us mingle and feel connected,” Jan reflects.

But having a social oasis hasn’t replaced the family interaction that residents miss so dearly since the coronavirus hit. “It breaks my heart that I can’t see them as often as I’d like,” says Jan. With the pandemic now seven months old, Jan feels lonesome and yearns for family visits free of time limits and conditions. With positive tests still high in Northwest Iowa, it’s a prevalent feeling among all residents and staff. Fieldcrest would like nothing more than to open up, as soon as it’s safe.

“It’s harder than I could have ever, ever, ever expected,” says Judy. “Being on the front line every day is very challenging. I’ve cried more tears than I knew were possible.” Still, she’ll keep coming up with innovative ideas to help residents feel engaged and part of the community.

Fieldcrest Assisted Living 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.

Communion

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Communion has many meanings for Audrie, shown on the right. This past summer she’s been communing with her two daughters who also live in Alexandria, MN. Peggy and Connie are pictured here during a gazebo visit to Vista Prairie at Windmill Ponds*, where Audrie has lived for the past year.

More recently a communion Audrie holds most dear, the Catholic Eucharist, was served by a local priest in the parking lot. “The hardest thing for my mom is not being able to go to church,” Connie said during a recent Windmill Ponds visit.

As the pandemic has evolved, so have the options for Audrie’s daughters to stay in touch. The visits started virtually and will progress to periodic assistance in Audrie’s apartment as Connie and Peggy apply to be essential caregivers. Still, they’ll be required to stay physically distant.

“It is hard, but I think it would be worse to give her a hug and then have someone get sick,” says Peggy. “At the end of the day, that’s the bottom line.” The daughters, who are among nine siblings, understand the need for safety in a regulated environment. Peggy was an elementary school teacher. Connie ran a day-care center.

“We both understand this accountability, having to keep people safe,” Connie reflects. They also appreciate Windmill Ponds’ extra efforts to combat loneliness. “I was very pleased that they started these bus rides,” Connie continues. “It’s a way to get out but they’re still with their community. They were able to social distance on the bus.” Activity Director Chris Mattson is the chauffer for the Tuesday – Thursday jaunts around the area in the community’s bus.

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.

*editor’s note — Windmill Ponds will resume outdoor visits, weather permitting, and in compliance with Minnesota Department of Health guidelines.

The Right Stuff

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Monica Shelgren became the Director of Health Services (DOH) for Vista Prairie at Goldfinch Estates in Fairmont last February, one month before the coronavirus crises hit Minnesota. When Martin County erupted as a Minnesota hot spot for COVID-19 the Goldfinch staff demonstrated it had “the right stuff.” Monica applied 37 years of health care experience to guide the clinical response. During the first six-months of the crisis, Goldfinch has experienced only one positive COVID-19 test and that was in a staff member who had no symptoms.

“It’s a team effort here,” Monica says. “We also rely on the Vista Prairie support staff, especially Melissa, to provide current information from the Minnesota Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control.” She’s referring to Vista Prairie’s Organizational Director of Health Care Melissa Plachecki, who supports all the Vista Prairie communities. “She does a wonderful job and what we learn from her, we incorporate here,” Monica adds.

Goldfinch’s success in keeping residents safe comes with sacrifice. “My heart breaks for our residents and their families,” Monica reflects. “The inability to interact as we’re all accustomed to is overwhelming for the families. They understand the rules, but it doesn’t make it easy.” Thankfully, cases within the county have leveled off most recently and that trend will allow Goldfinch and other long-term care communities to welcome back family members who previously provided essential care to residents.

As one of the larger employers in Fairmont, with 88 full and part-time employees, Monica also acknowledges Goldfinch’s role in the community. “We come to work and go home, and it’s our responsibility to encourage our staff to remain educated and to follow the guidelines presented to all of us.”

Amid the stress, Monica says there’s still joy at Goldfinch, “I work with a wonderful group of people. Out of all the jobs I’ve had over my career, I feel the most rewarded with this one, and excited to come to work every day.” Monica specifically acknowledges the Goldfinch nursing staff, including three registered nurses and two licensed practical nurses.

“Being a native of Fairmont, I was familiar with Goldfinch Estates at a high level,” Monica explains. “It was highly recommended, and I was thrilled to take advantage of the opportunity.” 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.

Equine engagement

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These hands have found harmony with many horses over a lifetime of 91 years. They belong to Truman, affectionally known as TD, a memory care resident of Vista Prairie at River Heights in South St. Paul, MN. Ara Schmidt developed a strong attachment with TD while she was a resident assistant in the memory care unit.

“I love all our memory care residents,” Ara explains. “But there was something about TD that just draws you in, especially when he starts talking about horses.”

In her first months at River Heights Ara recounts TD’s reaction when she showed him photos of horses. His family filled in the details that had escaped his memory. TD raised horses for many years, but was especially attached to one named Guy. In his apartment TD keeps a memory book full of photos and stories about “Guy the Wonder Horse.” TD called Guy his best friend for 32 years.

When River Heights promoted Ara to the activities assistant position, she soon hatched a plan sure to delight TD and all the residents. “I tapped my social media network for anybody who knew a source for equine therapy, using horses to awaken the senses,” Ara recounts. “Within a couple days I had two providers lined up.”

On August 5, Angie Vizenor was the first to roll up with a horse trailer transporting Magic and Manny, also pictured here. It was indeed a magical time, and only the latest example of River Heights’ imaginative efforts this summer to prevent isolation and keep residents engaged.

“We hope to make these visits an annual warm weather highlight,” says Ara. “The horse providers got as much joy out of the encounters as our residents did.”

In addition to its 16 memory care suites, River Heights offers assisted living in 44 apartments. Want to learn more about River Heights? Call Danielle at 651-326-6501. She would be happy to introduce you virtually to the whole dedicated staff, especially Ara.

Antidote for isolation

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Jeffrey Lauck’s title may be activity assistant but when he’s escorting Jean and other Vista Prairie at Copperleaf residents on their new Trishaw, he’s a pilot. And there will be many such rides to come as our Willmar, MN community enjoys its latest antidote for isolation.

“I love it!” Jean exclaims after the ride. “Going on this bike makes me feel so good.”

When the Trishaw arrived from its manufacturer in Copenhagen on June 23, it could not have been more welcome. The arrival culminated a $10,000 drive, with major funding provided by Willmar’s Vision 2040 organization, the United Way of West Central Minnesota, the Willmar Area Community Foundation and generous individual donors.

“Our residents are simply enjoying the great outdoors,” says Copperleaf Executive Director Jennie Marcus, who led the fundraising effort. “Appreciating nature, watching the frisbee golfers, people fishing, pelicans hunting fish, wildflower gardens, admiring the golf course and waiting for golfers to shoot a hole in one!”

With Copperleaf’s location near Robbins Island Park the opportunities will be limitless.

“The first time I saw the Trishaw bike, I thought here we go, that looks like fun,” recounts Evelyn, another resident. That’s high praise coming from a woman who has enjoyed a lifetime of powder puff racing on her snowmobile and still rides occasionally on a Harley Davidson motorcycle.

Evelyn went on to say, “Before COVID-19 I looked forward to taking the Copperleaf bus and going out for my groceries. That outing helped me feel more normal as far as being part of society. For me this bike has helped me feel free again.”

Getting ready to take residents for a Trishaw trip, requires two training sessions to be certified as a pilot. Most of that training is led by one of Copperleaf’s Registered Nurses, Ginna Calvin, an avid bike rider who inspired the idea for the community to obtain its own Trishaw.

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