Category Archives: Aging Resources

Putting the pieces together

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Herb has solved some big puzzles during his 86 years, assembling the future from disjointed pieces of the present. Within Vista Prairie at Garnette Gardens he’s known for his puzzle prowess among other attributes. Shown here with Resident Assistant Janessa Whitaker, Herb has peace of mind these past five years despite the current challenging times.

“After my wife died, it’s been a blessing that I was here,” Herb says. “I talked to a friend at church who lost her spouse at the age of 69 and now she’s completely alone. It’s so important to have somebody. Folks tell me they want to stay in their house. I say, ‘what if something happens someday, and suddenly you need somebody right away and you’re all alone.’” 

Since Herb relocated from Wisconsin to Redwood Falls 46 years ago, his roots have grown deep. He devoted his first five years to managing the JCPenney store, while he and his wife raised their two daughters and a son. He followed that with a 16-year career at Thrivent, then known as Lutheran Brotherhood. He’s still in close touch with the children, their spouses and his seven grand kids.

“They know that I’ve got people here to talk to. For Christmas they bought me an iPad, and that was really nice because we can see each other,” Herb relates. “With the kids, I think we’ve been more in contact because I can see them.”

Herb volunteers that he talks up Garnette Gardens all the time, “People talk about staying at home when they get older,” he reflects. “Living in a community like this is actually easier on the entire family because they know you’re getting what you need. This is a community.”

Herb has sage wisdom for families with aging parents considering a move to assisted living – “Write things down and talk about it in advance, so all the issues are on the table.”

While Herb is still driving, he’s observed the rules that limit outside travel to essential medical needs. His biggest challenge has been not being able to go out to bible study. Still, he feels fortunate to be at Garnette Gardens. “The media hasn’t really told people what assisted living is,” he says.

The Garnette Gardens community offers 61 one and two-bedroom apartments for seniors who value their independence but want options for personal care and supportive services. We also offer 16 memory care suites that provide a long-term option for seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. Care Suites round out the options, offering enhanced care for people recovering from surgery or illness.

A passion for painting

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While painting was never Jan’s profession, it’s been her passion since she was a little girl. For about a year, Jan has been painting as a resident of Monarch Meadows in North Mankato, the last four months under coronavirus control conditions.

Jan devoted her career to health care, as a registered nurse and nursing supervisor. In addition to her own profession she married a physician, her high school sweetheart, in Ottumwa, Iowa. His death prompted her two daughters to find Monarch Meadows and move her in. While the transition was hard, Jan says she was impressed with Monarch’s cleanliness.

As Monarch became her home, she returned to painting.

“I’ve always loved art,” Jan reflects. “It began watching my dad sketch. My grandfather was a professional artist. I grew up hearing about his art and seeing his artwork.”

Jan, now 81, inherited her grandfather’s love of oil painting, which is also her favorite medium. She’s pictured here with her latest work, a still-life that was in her imagination before she created it on canvas.

“The pillow started it,” Jan explains about her most recent inspiration. “The fabric fascinated me. My last painting is always my favorite.”

Jan was no less passionate about her life-long career in healthcare, which she says influenced the adult art classes she taught later, educating students about the toxicity of paint. “I tried to encourage people who thought they had nothing to do with art to become personally involved with it.”

In the future, Jan may have another opportunity to pass along her passion. There’s talk of setting up an in-house art gallery where Jan and other Monarch artists can display their work. Please call for a visit to Monarch Meadows, located in North Mankato, MN. It’s one of our largest communities, with 86 one-and-two-bedroom assisted living apartments and 12 care suites.

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.

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.