Category Archives: Meet the Team

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.

Trudy’s Treat

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The Iowa corn harvest was in for the most part. Time for Activities Director Judy Wallace to relive some good times with her friend Trudy Woudstra at Fieldcrest Senior Living in Sheldon. At 87, Trudy has earned a reputation as a resident cheerleader during her more than four years at Fieldcrest. Judy appreciates the moral support, as does the rest of the staff.

“It’s the socializing after breakfast that gets folks going in the morning,” says Judy. And Trudy owns up to a mealtime maneuver that has helped her diet. “I’ve been putting my dessert in a man’s scooter basket, and I think he likes it,” Trudy confesses. “I have a family wedding coming up in May and I hope my dress still fits me.”

Trudy has six kids, 18 grandchildren and a whole lot of great grandchildren. It’s a granddaughter getting married. While her recovery from a fall contributed to the initial decision to move to Fieldcrest, Trudy didn’t resist.

“My kids thought it was best that I move here,” Trudy says, recalling the time after her hospitalization and therapy. “And they thought I should give up my car too.”  But she doesn’t feel isolated, since Fieldcrest has a bus that provides transportation just about anywhere.

She’s also glad that Fieldcrest offers weekly church services in which she participates. In fact, Trudy says, the recipient of her re-appropriated dessert gifts often does devotions, “and he does a good job,” she says.  

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 offer 12 memory care suites that provide a long term option for seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.

Community Connections

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Cally Endres (right) fielded the call at Windmill Ponds in Alexandria. It came from the nearby Community Behavioral Health Hospital (CBHH), operated by the Minnesota Department of Human Services, the first of six such hospitals in the state. They were inquiring whether Windmill Ponds had excess capacity to supply meals from its kitchen.

Cally had recently joined Windmill Ponds as the Culinary Manager. It was a perfect match for her skill-set, as her formal education was in Dietetics. That call began a nearly two-year service relationship, for Windmill Ponds to provide three meals and two snacks, each day, for the CBHH. Cally was recently promoted to Business Office Manager for Windmill Ponds, but carefully monitors the relationship, along with her successor in the kitchen, Becky Sheggeby (left).

“We take pride in the quality of our food for residents,” says Cally. “We enjoy being able to meet the needs for another location as well. This relationship helps us accomplish our goal to be more closely connected with the community.”

Windmill Ponds is in a quiet neighborhood on the east side of Alexandria. It offers 65 one-and-two-bedroom apartments, designed for seniors who want an active lifestyle with access to the care they need.

Want to learn more about Windmill Ponds? Cally’s direct number is 320-815-3279. She also might share a favorite recipe.