Category Archives: Meet the Team

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.

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.

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.