Category Archives: Health & Wellness

Seven years, no itch

Posted on

For seven years, Jeanine Schneider has planned and carried out the activities for residents of Vista Prairie at River Heights in South St. Paul, MN. Jeanine is busy preparing for indoor activities prior to another Minnesota winter. She’s responsible for residents on the assisted living side of the community and for the more specialized activities required in the memory care suites.

“If we’re doing an activity that not everyone can do, I’ll try to improvise,” Jeanine says. “Like maybe a memory care resident can look at a gardening book but not actually garden, or they can feel the dirt in their hands and get that tactile sensation.”

River Heights residents harvested fresh veggies this past growing season, cucumbers and tomatoes, as well as a variety of blooming flowers. The gardens also yielded lots of satisfaction.

“It’s the joy, knowing that ‘I grew this,’” for the residents. “Sometimes we do it from seeds, sometimes not.” While the tomatoes started as plants, the cucumbers came from seeds. Gardening isn’t the only source of joy at River Heights.

“I started this new thing. We give quarters if someone wins in Bingo and the residents get such a bang out of it,” Jeanine remarks. “Lately, I’ll pick one game out of the whole Bingo tournament and say, ‘If you win, all your tablemates win.’”

Jeanine also recognizes how much joy she gets out of seeing the residents joyful and having fun. “I’d want someone to take care of me and do things with me when I get older.” Fortunately for River Heights, that time is not near.

No seven-year itch for Jeanine, “I love it. This is kind of one big family.”

River Heights offers assisted living in 44 apartments in addition to its 16 memory care suites. Want to learn more about River Heights? Call Michael at 651-326-6501. He’s happy to give you a tour and introduce you to the whole dedicated staff.

Rita is moving to a new menu

Posted on

Rita Gronski may be most comfortable in her chef’s coat, but with praise and support from many residents like Dwight, she’s now serving from a new menu – the role of Executive Director for Vista Prairie at Brentwood in Rice Lake, WI. The promotion was official on September 27.

Rita not only was responsible for providing delicious meals and snacks at Brentwood for 11 years, but she’s also managed one of the community’s most complex departments ensuring that residents have the right nutrition for their specific needs. Her 30 years of experience in senior care have taught her that it’s all about choice.

“The residents here have a choice in their menu,” Rita explains. “When they come here, they have their voice and their choice in food, where they may have given up their choice about things like driving. If they have a recipe that they’ve made from when they were a kid, we will bring it into to the kitchen and we will make it.”

Dwight sees this personal touch as a compelling advantage about Brentwood, especially for his sweet tooth, “I relate to the variety of food. For instance, we have a lot of homemade desserts here.”

Rita will continue to spend time with new residents when they move in, “I want to know them. This is my time to visit with them and know their likes and dislikes.”

Rita’s leadership skills and devotion to the customer come in part from her ownership of an area family restaurant prior to becoming Brentwood’s culinary manager. A dietary management certification from the University of Wisconsin at River Falls provided her academic training.  Her work-ethic goes back to growing up on a diversified livestock and dairy farm.

“We are delighted to welcome Rita to her new position,” said VPC Chief Operating Officer Anna Petersmeyer. “Rita has become a trusted resource for the residents, in many ways beyond great food.”

The Brentwood community offers 28 one and two-bedroom apartments for seniors who value their independence but want options for personal care and supportive services. We also offer 19 memory care suites that provide a long-term option for seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.

Two women met at a bar —

Posted on

Well not really. Karissa Kosek actually met 96-year-old Anne, a resident, shortly after Karissa assumed her new position as the Activities Manager for Vista Prairie at Copperleaf in Willmar, MN. They’re enjoying time together in Copperleaf’s Suds Room, where residents often gather for a beverage or a game of pool.

Karissa, 20, graduated from Ridgewater College in Hutchison, MN with an associates degree in marketing and communications. She and Anne became friends in July, soon after Karissa began her first full-time job at Copperleaf.

“Anne came to a lot of activities, so I got to know her first,” Karissa recalls. “She was someone who I could always rely on and know that she would be there.”

Reliability is Anne’s Copperleaf calling card. “I can’t sit still,” she says. “I’ve got a sewing machine here and I do things for people like sewing on curtains or whatever they want.”

In fact, her current project is to make lap-robes as gifts for every Copperleaf resident to keep them cozy this coming winter. She’s been doing this sort of thing since she retired 18 years ago from a career spanning more than 30 years as a health aide in nursing homes and group homes.

It’s one reason the move to Copperleaf 18 months ago came naturally. “It just felt like home,” Anne remembers.

Warm first impressions also helped Karissa get off to a good start, “The community here is very welcoming, and we’re always doing something; so it doesn’t ever feel like work,” she says.     

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.

Build Trust

Posted on

Teaching business principles in a classroom of high-schoolers or helping to manage a large senior living community — the key to success is the same – build trust. That’s Mandy Farrow’s mantra as she assumes her new role as the Executive Director for Vista Prairie at Goldfinch Estates in Fairmont, MN. Mandy should know. She brings experience on both sides of that career track. 

“You build trust with people, whether it’s the people you teach or the people you’re caring for, only if you prove to them that you’ll follow through with the things you have promised,” Mandy says. “Until you build that trust, you can’t make any real progress.”  

Mandy’s trust building experience also includes running a kitchen and bathroom remodeling business with her husband for 15 years before she decided to pursue teaching. To prepare for that, she obtained her Master’s in Education before teaching in two area high schools. Her undergraduate degree is in business management. 

About a year ago, based on her business management background, Mandy was hired as the business office manager at Goldfinch, during the height of the pandemic. 

“I was so impressed with the leadership team, the people I was working with,” Mandy recalls of that time. “It was difficult to explain to families when they couldn’t come in. That was the hardest thing, trying to be compassionate and strict at the same time, to keep everyone safe.” 

And Goldfinch did just that. While Martin County had suffered 2,376 COVID cases by the end of July, only a handful of Goldfinch residents or staff ever tested positive. Much of that credit goes to the nursing staff, and the leadership of Mandy’s predecessor, Pamela Rubis, who is retiring. 

“The separation from families was devastating for our residents,” Pamela recalls. “Our staff rose to the crisis to support the residents to the best of their abilities, adding joy to their days and nights. Fortunately, all our residents are vaccinated. After the initial crisis of the pandemic a few of the residents tested positive but were never symptomatic.” 

The Goldfinch culture that Pamela cultivated provided the positive energy that the staff brings to the community every day – the culture that attracted Mandy to be its next leader. “They really are living the mission and the values of Vista Prairie,” Pamela says. 

And that also helped build trust with the community, since the word was out that Goldfinch did not have a COVID outbreak during the height of the pandemic. 

“It’s been a very rewarding, a privilege and blessing to work with the amazing residents, families and team at Goldfinch Estates,” Pamela concludes.

The community offers 41 memory care suites that provide a long-term option for seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. We also offer 92 one and two-bedroom apartments for seniors who want access to supportive services while maintaining their independence. 

20 Years of Compassion and Joy

Posted on

When resident Marv Diekevers got his COVID-19 vaccination in January, he was part of the latest chapter in the 20-year history of Vista Prairie at Fieldcrest in Sheldon, Iowa. That history was the topic of this article by Justin Rust, managing editor of the Sheldon Mail-Sun, which we reprint here, with permission:

________________________________________

Fieldcrest celebrates 20th anniversary – June 21, 2021

Providing a joy filled atmosphere is the goal of the staff at Vista Prairie at Fieldcrest Senior Living Community in Sheldon.

That goal was tested recently by the coronavirus pandemic, which forced the facility to close its doors to visitors for about a year to help protect the residents from a virus that harmed seniors the most.

It also left them isolated except for their interactions with the Fieldcrest staff and their fellow residents.

The goal didn’t change, though. It only amplified how important it was to remain joyful.

“We have remained positive and joyful and committed to having the best experience you can have,” said Fieldcrest senior executive director Calvin Diekmann. “Plus we are keeping them safe. We offered the vaccine and we have done just wonderful in the past 16 months.”

As the pandemic winds down, it comes as Fieldcrest is celebrating a major milestone since the facility at 2501 E. Sixth St. reached its 20th anniversary this past week.

A celebration was planned for Thursday, but a heat advisory forced the Fieldcrest staff to postpone it until Sept. 16. Diekmann and his staff didn’t want the residents to suffer from the extreme heat.

“Our main goal is to always serve the residents and help them live in a joy filled environment,” Diekmann said. “That’s always our main goal.”

When Fieldcrest was opened 20 years ago, it has 56 assisted living rooms. In 2014, 13 assisted living rooms were added along with 12 memory care apartments. That was the same year VistaPrairie became the ownership company of Fieldcrest.

Diekmann has been with Fieldcrest for nine years.

“By far my favorite part of this job is listening and visiting with the residents,” Diekmann said.

The residents are also Fieldcrest director of health and services Jennifer Roos’ favorite part of her job. She has been with Fieldcrest for seven years.

“No matter how bad your morning started, once you walk through the door, there’s a resident to greet you,” Roos said. “It changes your day. I love coming to work every day and I love my job. I love seeing them all.”

While the residents help the staff stay positive, keeping that same attitude was hard with the pandemic.

The staff knew it had to push through during the toughest stretch of the facility’s 20 years.

“Him and I, we had to stay positive because all of the staff was looking up to us. If they saw we weren’t being positive, it was huge for them as well,” Roos said. “So being positive and coming in every day, doing the best we could to keep the residents safe and happy and keep the staff safe as well. It wasn’t easy, it was hard every day, hard on the staff every day and we made it through.”

Roos gave credit to Judy Wallace, Fieldcrest’s activities manager, and Heidi Starkenburg, Wallace’s activity assistant, for keeping the residents in good spirits over the last year.

“I really saw Judy evolve throughout the pandemic because she had to change so much,” Roos said. “Heidi did one on ones with residents all day long. They were huge during the pandemic with really keeping their spirits up. There were no group activities during it. Judy would take arts and crafts to them and they had different games they would do with the residents.”

Diekmann added he had to watch for remote control cars since they would be racing down the hallways.

Fieldcrest opened back up to visitors in April and group activities resumed for residents a couple of months ago.

“Last week Judy and Heidi brought a bus full of residents to Hills Park. They had watermelon and there may have been a small water fight,” Diekmann said with a laugh. “They came back and some of them stopped by my office to say how much they enjoyed it. They are so glad we can do those things again.”

Wallace has even been able to bring back a fan favorite.

“She has an ice cream truck and the residents love the ice cream truck,” Roos said. “She has different flavors of ice cream and music they can play. It’s one of the residents favorites as well.”

With all of the amenities and activities Fieldcrest offers, Diekmann said the facility is “pretty unique.”

“We are the only assisted living facility in the area with full sized kitchens and two bedroom apartments,” Diekmann said. “Our staff is just amazing. They are so resident focused and we live the joy every day. During COVID, sure there would be good days and bad days but our staff always came back with a smile on their face. We have the most courageous staff ever. I am bias but that’s what I would say.”

Even with all that Fieldcrest has to offer, it’s the residents who impress Diekmann the most.

“I am just in awe every day when I come in here. It’s just so rewarding when a resident tells you thank you,” Diekmann said. “Or even if they are upset about something and we can fix it. It’s so amazing to see the happiness they have when the families got to come back in. To me, those are the big things.”

The community 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.