Category Archives: For the Family

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.

Perfect Timing

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It’s not the honeymoon Andrea Rupe was anticipating when she assumed her role as the new executive director of Vista Prairie at Monarch Meadows in North Mankato. Beginning March 23 she was immediately immersed in preventing a case of COVID-19 at Monarch, during the most serious pandemic in her lifetime. In many ways, Andrea’s timing was perfect, applying her 17 years of health care experience to this new challenge.

“On a few occasions already, I have tapped into my ability to manage stress,” Andrea said after her first week in the position. “I tend to look ahead at the end goal, in this case to keep all our residents and staff members safe from this virus.”

Andrea reports that the social distancing precautions have prevented her from getting to know the residents as quickly as she would have liked. She’s used to having coffee with residents at mealtimes and being involved with larger group activities, all of which are on hold – replaced with one-on-one interactions. 

“I was very impressed with how well structured everything is at Monarch Meadows, even in these unprecedented times,” she remarked. “We have an exceptional team, which was clear on the first day. They have been delivering high quality services for 20 years. That will continue, with more added intensity.”

Andrea completed the Leading Age Assisted Living Administrators Certificate program in 2019 and will earn a bachelor’s degree of Healthcare Administration this spring.

“We are eager for Andrea to contribute her expertise to our mission of compassion and joy,” said VPC President and Chief Executive Officer Jim Bettendorf. “Her enthusiasm and skills in quality care are a great fit for Monarch Meadows.”

Monarch Meadows is one of our largest communities with 86 one-and-two-bedroom assisted living apartments and 12 care suites. Unfortunately, one of Monarch’s signature hospitality offerings, its Wednesday Breakfast in the Meadow, will need to be on hiatus while we’re responding to the threat of COVID-19.

A 2020 Vision of Compassion and Joy

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During December we asked the executive directors of our Vista Prairie Communities (VPC) to reflect on our mission of compassion and joy as we enter a new decade. They described what they see and experience where they serve in eight Midwestern communities. From left to right as pictured:

 

Jennie MarcusCopperleaf in Willmar, MN – “Relationships and friendships built through teamwork.”

Natalie SeehausenGarnette Gardens in Redwood Falls, MN – “True ‘joy’ comes when you inspire, encourage and guide someone else on a path and we all benefit from their success.”

Cal Diekmann Fieldcrest in Sheldon, IA – Cal experiences joy “every day when residents wave at me when they walk by!”

Rachael Evers – At that time, leader of Monarch Meadows in North Mankato, MN – “Intentional, meaningful, purposeful, caring relationships.” It was a true joy working with you Rachael!

Joe Childs River Heights in South St. Paul, MN – “Genuine joy-filled communities.”

Chris Carter Windmill Ponds in Alexandria, MN – Chris sees joy in residents’ “warm, contented smiles revealing peaceful hearts.”

Pamela Rubis Goldfinch Estates in Fairmont, MN – “The ability to serve others and greeted with a smile every day!”

Kim Webster – Vice President & Chief Operating Officer, with oversight for Emerald Village in North Olmsted, OH – For Kim, these words lead to joy – “passion, leadership, integrity, hard-work and dedication.”

In our complex world, author and Kentucky farmer Wendell Berry has sage wisdom on the topic – “Be joyful – though you have considered all the facts.”

Throughout the new year we wish you bountiful joy coupled with the compassion of loved ones around you!

Gifts for Very Special People

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This Vista Prairie at River Heights patio in South St. Paul is a peaceful oasis outside our Memory Care services there. Memory Care is available in our Minnesota communities in Fairmont, Redwood Falls and Willmar as well, and in Sheldon, Iowa.

Lynn Buckley is the Memory Care and Care Suites Manager for Vista Prairie at Garnette Gardens in Redwood Falls, and an expert in this field. During this holiday season, Lynn offers some helpful gift advice to you, for people on your list who have dementia.

The first and most important tip is to know what stage of the process your loved one is in. Your care professional can easily answer this question for you. Buying a gift for a loved one in the early stages of dementia can be very different from buying a gift for someone in the late stages. These suggestions are grouped according to the stages of dementia:

Early Stage:

  • Activity books, like crossword puzzles or strategy books, adult color books, color pencils
  • DVD’s of classic movies, TV shows or music that your loved one likes
  • A photo album or a family event calendar with photos of family members
  • A memory phone where photos and phone numbers of loved ones can be stored
  • Digital photo frame
  • A clock with digital time, date and day
  • Personalized video of family member and friends
  • Transportation gift cards
  • Familiar books
  • Box of cards with stamped envelopes
  • Transfer old family videos, photos and slides onto a digital recording
  • Gift card for Meals on Wheels or at a local senior dining opportunity
  • Favorite sports team memorabilia

These items will help stimulate your loved one to reminisce.

Middle Stage:

  • Automatic night lights that turn on and off with movement
  • A clock with digital time, date and day
  • An automatic pill dispenser if your loved one resides in their home
  • Simple craft items that will spark your loved one to reminisce
  • Scented lotions and bath soaps
  • Larger print books
  • A bird feeder

Late Stage:

  • Slippers
  • Weighted lap blanket
  • Fidget toys
  • Stuffed animal
  • Warm soft lap blanket

Finally — the best gift for all stages is your time!

The primary focus of our Memory Care services in Minnesota and Iowa is to provide an attentive and caring environment for seniors dealing with Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia. Our program is full of activities that help relieve the anxiety, confusion and frustration that impact residents’ lives.

Trudy’s Treat

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The Iowa corn harvest was in for the most part. Time for Activities Director Judy Wallace to relive some good times with her friend Trudy Woudstra at Fieldcrest Senior Living in Sheldon. At 87, Trudy has earned a reputation as a resident cheerleader during her more than four years at Fieldcrest. Judy appreciates the moral support, as does the rest of the staff.

“It’s the socializing after breakfast that gets folks going in the morning,” says Judy. And Trudy owns up to a mealtime maneuver that has helped her diet. “I’ve been putting my dessert in a man’s scooter basket, and I think he likes it,” Trudy confesses. “I have a family wedding coming up in May and I hope my dress still fits me.”

Trudy has six kids, 18 grandchildren and a whole lot of great grandchildren. It’s a granddaughter getting married. While her recovery from a fall contributed to the initial decision to move to Fieldcrest, Trudy didn’t resist.

“My kids thought it was best that I move here,” Trudy says, recalling the time after her hospitalization and therapy. “And they thought I should give up my car too.”  But she doesn’t feel isolated, since Fieldcrest has a bus that provides transportation just about anywhere.

She’s also glad that Fieldcrest offers weekly church services in which she participates. In fact, Trudy says, the recipient of her re-appropriated dessert gifts often does devotions, “and he does a good job,” she says.  

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 offer 12 memory care suites that provide a long term option for seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.