Category Archives: Health & Wellness

Her safe, healing touch

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Heather Frieden serves many roles for Vista Prairie at Fieldcrest in Sheldon, Iowa. She’s the lead care coordinator, managing 30 of the staff and also a certified restorative aide. Three months ago, coronavirus precautions forced Fieldcrest to lose access to its beloved contract beauticians and the rest of the outside world. Heather stepped up to fill part of the void — as she’s doing in the photo for Margaret, a nine-year resident.

“I’ve been washing and setting hair every day, and some of them are in tears when I get done,” Heather reports. “They tell me, ‘you don’t know how good this makes me feel.’”

Fieldcrest plans to reopen the salon when it’s safe, according to the Iowa reopening plan. Heather doesn’t use the salon, nor does she cut hair or offer other services that a registered beautician would. She comes by hair care naturally, as her mom was a beautician.

Heather’s volunteer service fits her dedication to healing touch. In her certified restorative aide role, she frequently visits individual apartments to guide exercises, including a resistant bike, and tethered walks up and down the hallways. The restorative program is unique in the area. While it’s not physical therapy, it is more extensive than the routine movement exercise activities offered by many assisted living communities.

“I do a lot of movement with residents on their legs, and arms and hips, to keep them flexible,” Heather explains. “I bond with them.  We’re together for a half hour so we chat and I learn about their life.”

Heather is recertified annually as part of her training. While she’s doing the restorative work, Heather is in a full gown and face shield – part of Fieldcrest’s precaution to protect residents from getting sick. 

“They’ve gotten really close to me and can’t wait for their day to exercise,” Heather reflects. And about the resident assistants she supervises, “Our staff has stuck it out. We’re just in it together.”

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 hope you’ll visit our 12 memory care suites that provide a long-term option for seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.

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.

Lessons from a quarantine past

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Here’s Culinary Manager Amanda Sundrin as she delivers a snack to Anitra, a resident of Vista Prairie at Copperleaf in Willmar. She and her late husband Duane moved in three years ago, following Anitra’s retirement as an elementary school teacher in several nearby communities.

She recently began life’s journey as a single woman again since Duane’s death last December, after being together for 69 years. However, in all her 94 years, it’s probably her experience one spring as a pre-teen that prepared her best for this pandemic experience.

“I had scarlet fever and our family was quarantined,” Anitra recalls. “We could not go anyplace. My older sister had to move out and live with my Aunt, because she was going to graduate from high school that year. My mother had to keep my dishes separate from everybody else and she would leave my meals at the top of the stairs.”

Those childhood memories give Anitra perspective on why Copperleaf is taking the precaution now to deliver meals and snacks to each resident’s apartment.

“It’s a very nice thing that they are doing, to keep us distancing,” she says. “Those culinary workers make sure that we have what we need and what we want. They are wonderful people.”

Before his death, Duane’s dementia made it necessary for him to live in Copperleaf’s memory care unit, a painful separation for Anitra. Her community of support means a lot to her.

“I have nothing but praise for the staff here at Copperleaf,” she concludes. “Not just now with this virus but from the minute we moved in, everything has been just wonderful.”

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.

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.”