Category Archives: For the Family

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.

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 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!