Category Archives: Health & Wellness

Mountain climber

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Eunice and Judy Wolner climb virtual mountains together at Vista Prairie at Goldfinch Estates in Fairmont, MN. Judy explores the reality of the residents she cares for, like Eunice. As the Lead Care Coordinator for the community’s memory care unit, she has engaged seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease or other forms of dementia, and their family members, for more than 18 years.

Goldfinch’s longest serving staff person, Judy applies her experience in the field to supervise a dedicated staff. “The reason I’m here is because I need to be here,” she says about her calling as a Goldfinch leader. “It’s never been about the money. I feel like somebody has to be there. Our mission here gives families peace.”

While memory care is Judy’s latest adventure, it’s not her first. When she was 21, she and a group of friends climbed Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. The peak is literally next door to Moshi, the village where she grew up with four brothers and three sisters in Tanzania.

She recalls that the climb (Judy is third from left in the photo) took three days to go up and three to come down, for an average of 6-8 hours each day. “This was considered the easiest route but after the first day, I knew why our ancestors called it Kilemanyaaro,” her tribal language’s expression for “cannot be conquered.”

Trans-Atlantic travel was Judy’s next exploration, in her early 20s, as she visited a friend in New York. This love for adventure landed her in Minnesota where she met her husband and got married in 2005. They settled in Fairmont, his hometown, where they are raising their son. Judy quickly secured a position as a Goldfinch Estates resident assistant.

Most folks in Fairmont don’t look like Judy. She sees her ethnicity and race differently. Growing up in a high tourism part of Tanzania with people of all colors, faiths and cultures was a blessing. “There’s a lot of foreigners that come and climb the mountain or go on Safaris,” she says. “Moving to the U.S. was the first time I was referred as ‘Black’ which is a way to distinguish people in the U.S. However, that’s impossible where I was born, with so many shades of the same color. We are simply Tanzanians. It’s more about what part of the country you come from, or what tribe you’re from.”

Living in Fairmont for nearly 20 years, she has helped to educate friends and coworkers about her race, culture, and her career. She recalls one conversation where she responded to a child’s curiosity this way – “We’re just like flowers. Wouldn’t it be terrible if we only had the white roses or the red roses and not all these other colors?” This child’s mother later reflected that she’d frequently wondered how to explain race to her kids.

“If your heart is pure and you tell the truth, there’s no problem,” says Judy, expressing her philosophy. “It all depends on adults and the seeds that get planted early in life.”

And that’s the same philosophy Judy teaches in climbing memory mountains with residents. “Part of our role is to educate family members to accept their loved-ones for who they are now, not who they were before they moved here.”

In addition to its 41 memory care suites, Goldfinch Estates offers 92 one and two-bedroom assisted living apartments for seniors who want access to supportive services while maintaining their independence.

Home for Christmas

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This was the first Christmas at Vista Prairie at Brentwood for Rhianon Peterson, the community’s Director of Health Services, who joined the staff in late October. While she brings 20-years of nursing experience to the job, her holiday joy at Brentwood felt like something new.

“We have a Christmas gala here,” she describes. “I asked my husband and my daughter to come and help. And when we got home that night, my husband said what he loved best about the experience was seeing me smile. There’s no other job I’ve ever had that I can come to work and just smile, because I love these people.”

The family had recently moved to Rice Lake, WI from the Spooner area to be closer to where they grew up. Rhianon’s education roots also are in Rice Lake, obtaining her Registered Nurse certification at the local community college. That was in 2002.

After a variety of hospital and other nursing experiences, coming back to care for older adults had long been her goal. When the opportunity at Brentwood surfaced, she jumped at the chance.

“I’ve always loved Brentwood,” she says. “I used to come here as a hospice nurse. It was a place that I always said, if I ever had to put a loved-one somewhere, this is where it would be.”

While she’s happy she’s found her professional home at Brentwood, Rhianon is grateful for her years of experience in hospice and home care. “Being out in the field in those positions gave me confidence in my role here, that I can do this,” she said. Brentwood’s residents already have seen her skills in leading the nursing staff and carrying out health assessments.

The Brentwood community offers options for residents on all sides of the care spectrum, with 28 one and two-bedroom apartments for seniors who want options for personal care and supportive services along with their freedom of movement. We also offer 19 memory care suites that provide a long-term option for seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.

Bon appétit

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Jennie Marcus wants to take your order at Vista Prairie at Copperleaf in Willmar, MN. Would you prefer the Daily Chef’s Selection or are you in the mood for a hot panini sandwich today? If so, you should try the Chicken Caprese with mozzarella cheese, tomato and a balsamic glaze, served on artisan bread. Copperleaf’s North Winds Fine Dining menu will soon feature these choices and many more, in addition to yummy breakfasts, served each morning until 10 a.m.

It’s all about choice and flexibility. “We all look forward to our next meal,” says Jennie, Copperleaf’s Executive Director. “For residents to have choice on when and what they want to eat, and who they want to eat with, is going to make a huge difference in our services. They can also invite their families to come and get something from the restaurant.”

The dining experience will change for Copperleaf’s 24 memory care suites as well. The former dining room in that section has been converted to new activity space. The new dining area will have facilities to enable residents to eat when they want to. “It will allow the staff to do more one-on-one care with them,” Jennie explains.

Jennie says the residents have enjoyed watching the progress so far with the $1.5 million renovation in the kitchen, and throughout Copperleaf’s public spaces. “One of our huge landmarks was moving the grand piano upstairs,” she recounts. “That was an emotional day. Now that it’s on the mezzanine level it sounds so beautiful. I think it was always meant to be up there; the acoustics are so nice.”

When spring comes, Copperleaf still plans to create an outdoor dining area with views of the marsh behind the building and a pergola for shade. “We’ll be coming to residents and members of the community for financial support to go beyond our renovation budget,” Jennie said. The community offers 55 one-and-two-bedroom assisted living apartments and seven care suites in addition to memory care. Compassion, smiles and fine dining all around.

Trust

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During their 70-year marriage and then some, Shirley and Ken have trusted each other in their most important decisions. They placed their trust in their daughter three years ago when they moved into Vista Prairie at Monarch Meadows in North Mankato, MN. Now 92, they look back on a life raising two girls and two boys, who have reciprocated with 14 grandchildren and 20 great grandchildren, one of whom just entered college.

Most of Shirley and Ken’s working lives were spent operating a fourth-generation dairy farm in Nicollet County, where they milked 50 cows, raised chickens, and tended a variety of crops. Shirley says she particularly enjoyed raising 1,000 chickens and working in the fields. When it was time to slow down and hand over the farm to younger operators they decided to move to an apartment, where they lived for 12 years. Then came the decision to seek out assisted living.

“We decided to move ourselves,” Shirley says, “then our daughter started looking around and she thought this sounded good.” That was four months before the pandemic struck. While they stayed in touch by phone, Ken and Shirley agree it was a difficult time not seeing their family.

In hindsight, they’re happy they made the move when they did, including giving up their car, which they were still driving when they moved to Monarch Meadows.

Now, visiting is back in full swing. And when there’s no active COVID-19 outbreak to stifle, the community offers a well subscribed menu of activities from outings to the ever-popular bingo, Shirley’s favorite. Ken says he likes everything about the regular exercise program that Monarch Meadows provides, “It’s helping me with my balance,” he says.

The ultimate in trust for Ken and Shirley is their faith in God. Shirley describes her faith as part of her purpose now, “We’re supposed to talk about it to other people,” she says, “that the Lord is good.”

Thanks, Shirley and Ken for living your purpose, through trust.

Vista Prairie at Monarch Meadows offers 87 one-and-two-bedroom assisted living apartments and 11 care suites. We also provide two respite suites, for short-term care when home caregivers need a break. Call (507) 933-4681 to book a tour.

Clear Vision

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Milady Imdieke envisioned her career in health care early, in a life that has taken her through two countries and four states. Last May, she assumed her current position as the Director of Health Services for Vista Prairie at Windmill Ponds in Alexandria, MN.

Born in the Dominican Republic, she and her mother moved to Miami when she was six months old. There, they joined her physician father who was in the process of obtaining his license to practice medicine in the U.S. Her father’s medical residencies progressed through New York and Pennsylvania, eventually recruited to a clinic in Todd County’s Long Prairie, MN when she was in the third grade.

“My dad always wanted to practice rural medicine and experience the four seasons,” Milady explains, “So, Long Prairie it was.”

A Registered Nurse for four years, Milady and her father are now health care colleagues, especially as information about the Pandemic became more complex. “There was so much information out there,” she remembers. “I went to my dad, ‘What are you seeing? What are your journals telling you?’”

Milady was wooed to work for Windmill Ponds, more than three times larger than the community in nearby Clarissa, MN where she worked before. “Here, I get to interact with all the residents and see what’s going on with them.”

Milady likes everything about the job, including her leadership role at Windmill Ponds. But it’s the relationships with residents that she relishes most. “They sit and talk about their life, from the very beginning to the medical issues that are going on with them now,” she says. And it’s not only health issues. Once that trust is established, Milady says she also enjoys helping residents with other issues, including to make sense of their new smart phone.

Milady is a student again, as well as a practitioner. She’s about halfway to earning her BSN (Bachelor of Sciences in Nursing), taking on-line courses at the University of Mary in North Dakota. Windmill Ponds has a scholarship grant from the Minnesota Department of Health that will pay for those expenses as she completes her BSN.

Somehow, Milady juggles it all, studying some of each day and all day on the weekends. “I make a big pot of coffee and just do everything.” But it’s fulfilling her career vision. “I want to stay in patient care,” she says. “I really do like geriatrics.”

Vista Prairie at 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.