Category Archives: Health & Wellness

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.

Now it’s her turn

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Vista Prairie at Windmill Ponds in Alexandria has been home to Delores for 13 years, longer than any other resident there. When you live to be 101, like Delores, it’s possible to outlive your resources. Social Security helps but doesn’t cover the full cost of assisted living services, food, medicine and other needs.

It’s a common situation in Minnesota, where more than 30,000 people get assistance from Elderly Waiver, a Minnesota Medical Assistance program for people who qualify based on their care needs, total assets and income. Delores is one of those people. The sale of her house in nearby Brandon, MN plus other savings and Social Security provided for her expenses for many years.

For the generation that Delores represents it’s the least we can do. Through their hard work and courage, they helped build the economy we enjoy today. In her case, after her husband died eight years earlier, Delores decided at 88, that it was time for assisted living.

“It was getting to be a little bit too much,” Delores remembers. “I did my own taking care of the place, mowing the lawn and having a garden.” That’s when her son and nephews helped her move to Windmill Ponds.

The youngest of seven children, Delores was raised on a diversified farm in Douglas County. She and her husband eventually operated the farm for 15 years, but farming took a toll on her health. That led to a seven-year career in the Douglas County Welfare Department where she assisted county residents who needed help.

Delores found more perspective later in life about what it takes to operate a community like Windmill Ponds. She and her husband devoted several years to manage motels and apartment buildings, both in Arizona and back in Minneapolis. While she has outlived many of her fellow Windmill Ponds residents, she still enjoys its care and comfort. “I consider it’s like a community of friends,” Delores says. “You make of it what you do with yourself.”

Painting Memories

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While Josie Olander’s service helps awaken the senses of Copperleaf residents, she didn’t expect it to include painting a mural on one of the memory care unit’s walls. Executive Director Jennie Marcus had the idea, and Josie, who joined the staff a little over a year ago, made it happen. She painted a couple hours at night, starting around Thanksgiving and going into early December — after her regular evening shift ended.

“A farm scene came to mind,” Josie says about the process. “I come from a family of farmers; my grandpa was a farmer and my uncle still is, in Renville County.”

Several memory care residents chatted as Josie created during the three-week sketching and painting process. She remembers one who had especially valuable advice. “He raised horses and his information flowed out as he stepped back into that role. It was just awesome,” she remembers. “He also taught architectural drafting… so when I was drawing the barn, he had some legitimate pointers on my perspective.”  And perhaps the ultimate affirmation for an artist – “the resident said the mural brings a lot of life to the place.”

Josie’s resident assistant role takes her to all three Copperleaf choices: assisted living, care suites and memory care. “I just want to help out where needed,” she explains. Variety in her work is a theme. During the day she’s a para-professional at Dream Technical Academy in Willmar, providing an opportunity to practice her professional skills with high school youth as well.

Josie also responded to some self-imposed pressure – completing the mural in time for the annual Copperleaf holiday party. “I stayed that night until about two in the morning, but I got it done!”

Copperleaf senior living community offers 55 one-and-two-bedroom Assisted Living apartments, seven Care Suites, providing 24-hour continuous senior care, and 20 Memory Care Suites.

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.

Journaling and Joy

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It’s hard to say exactly why the friendship blossomed – their obsession with journaling or something more fundamental, joy in each other’s company. Regardless of the reason, the friendship between 21-year-old Ashley Schmitz and Monarch Meadows resident Kären (pronounced Caron) Madsen has deepened over the past year.

Now 86, Kären has been journaling since she was 12. The shelves in her apartment are jammed with journals, some leather-bound others paperback. “I discovered she also does a journal,” says Kären, referring to Ashley. “Because I’m now blind, I can’t really write anything pretty. I have a lot of empty journals that I saved for pretty writing, but I can’t do it anymore.”

Kären gave her blank journals to Ashley, when macular degeneration took her remaining vision, after a 16-year progression. Ashley was a Monarch Meadows caregiver at the time.

“I remember coming in here and she wanted me to read from her journals,” Ashley recounts. “That’s where the reading started – she wanted to remember things that she’d once written.”

Ashley’s an on-call staffer at Monarch Meadows now while she pursues a degree in psychology at Minnesota State University at Mankato. She still finds time to visit Kären frequently, where their reading has evolved to poetry – one of the sources of joy in Kären’s life.

During our visit, Ashley was reading Lewis Carroll’s The Walrus and the Carpenter. The poetry of Sylvia Plath is also among Kären’s favorites, as are talking books from the Library of Congress. “I’ve read Eleanor Roosevelt’s autobiography,” Kären reports.

“I learn a lot from Kären,” says Ashley. “It’s really awesome when I can use my resources to help her have some joy. Sometimes a poem will jar a memory, or she’ll think of a song. Luckily I can find the lyrics or other poems on my phone.”

Monarch Meadows senior living community in North Mankato offers 86 one-and-two-bedroom assisted living apartments and 12 care suites, providing 24-hour continuous senior care. Monarch is known for its Wednesday, Breakfast in the Meadow, welcoming family members and visitors to stop by for a warm breakfast.