Category Archives: News & Events

Sally is still Sally

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Lynn Buckley’s expression describes the difference in today’s care for people with dementia as opposed to former methods prevalent in her field of expertise. For the last two years, Lynn has managed the memory care suites at Vista Prairie at Garnette Gardens in Redwood Falls, MN. She and the staff she manages provide long-term care for seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia.

“That person is still there,” Lynn emphasizes, referring to the folks they care for. “They’re just not able to communicate with us in the way they used to. We need to know them as a person, their likes and dislikes, their life history. Knowing those pieces can help our whole approach to caring for somebody, including which interventions are better for certain behaviors.”

Lynn recently became a Certified Dementia Care Specialist. The CDCS certification involves specialized training in the latest standards and techniques for caring for patients and clients diagnosed with Dementia.

“Dementia is not a disease in itself. There are several diseases that involve dementia,” Lynn explains. “We need to educate people about the basic signs of dementia to get an early diagnosis.”

Lynn’s CDCS certification equips her to present several courses, some through the Alzheimer’s Association, which she plans to offer to community education in the local school district and in several other area venues. 

“I’ve always had a passion to work with older adults,” says Lynn, a Licensed Practical Nurse who started as a nursing assistant in high school. She went on to manage a hospital adult day program for 25 years before she joined Vista Prairie.

Lynn likes the direction that dementia-care is going, “It’s a whole culture change. You’re looking at behavior management methods other than medication. Back in the ‘80s we were supposed to bring clients back to reality. Well, that didn’t work. Now we just enter their reality. That’s person centered.”  

In addition to its 16 memory care suites, the Garnette Gardens community offers 61 one and two-bedroom apartments for seniors who value their independence but want options for personal care and the supportive services they need. Care Suites round out the options, offering enhanced care for people recovering from surgery or illness.

Teacher’s pet

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At the age of 95, Lorraine’s life is defined by teaching. Her cat, Pretty Lady, is her constant companion at Vista Prairie at Monarch Meadows in North Mankato, MN.

“She was a cat that they threw out on the street and the Humane Society ended up with her,” Lorraine remembers. “I had just put down my cat that I had for 18 years and I swore I would never get another one. But here’s this little cat that they figured was eight then. I’ve had her for nine years.”

Inspired by a childhood teacher, Lorraine started her own career in the classroom, in Morrison County’s Cushing, MN when she was just 19, after less than a year of teacher training. She loved it, amid its challenges.

“They tested me every inch of the way,” Lorraine recalls, with a twinkle in her eye. “Some days I’d go to school and I’d have a nest of frogs in my desk.” The school was located on top of a hill with a little pond below, a perfect habitat for frogs — and mischief. “Oh, we have a new science project today,” she’d reply. “The trick was to stay ahead of them.”

Lorraine and her husband raised six kids. He was a mechanic, who died when he was just 60. She later went back to what is now Minnesota State in Mankato to get her teaching degree and graduated the same year her oldest son graduated from high school. With her new diploma, she taught sixth grade in Garden City, MN, eventually becoming the principal of that school. Nobody in her family had ever gone past the seventh grade.

Later in her career, Lorraine took on some additional training and switched to teaching adults to read. Her first client was John, a 45-year-old auto body mechanic. “I asked him why he wanted to learn to read, ‘Well my daughter’s going to go to school and it would be awful if I can’t read back to her,’” she recounts.

John and Lorraine are still in touch. Soon after she moved into Monarch Meadows three years ago, John came to visit her and Pretty Lady. She also loves it, of course, when her kids and grandkids come to visit. You’ll find her in the dining room, now that residents can eat together again, welcoming new people when they move in.

Monarch Meadows, located in North Mankato, MN is one of our largest communities, with 86 one-and-two-bedroom assisted living apartments and 12 care suites. Call Nancy at 507-386-2451 to book a tour.

Respect for mom, and virus

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Carla Starkenburg is one of many adults now in the role of caring for an aging parent. Carla’s mom Jennie (left) is a resident of Vista Prairie at Fieldcrest in Sheldon, Iowa. This role reversal took on new meaning in February when Carla, a registered nurse for O’Brien County Public Health, administered two rounds of COVID-19 vaccine to Jennie, along with other residents and staff.

“Just to know that she’s got the extra protection now, with the vaccine, it was a good feeling to be a part of that,” Carla says. She’s one of six children, including five older brothers.

A good feeling for 95-year-old Jennie too, since she recovered from COVID-19 back in October. Jennie and Carla’s father moved into Fieldcrest more than six years ago. He passed away in 2017 after 72 years of marriage.

Carla says she and her fellow O’Brien County nurse have delivered more than 2,500 vaccinations since December, with people coming to their offices, doing clinics in places like Fieldcrest and most recently for teachers in the schools in O’Brien County. “It’s been very challenging but very rewarding at the same time, because we know it’s all for good,” Carla sums up.

So, with the vaccine now being more widely administered, does that mean we can get back to normal visiting practices in places like Fieldcrest? Carla urges more patience, “We still have to be very cautious. I feel like we have to respect the virus. It’s real. We have to be cautious with how we are in our communities.”

Still, Carla is confident that Jennie is in the right spot at Fieldcrest, “I feel like she’s getting wonderful care. The staff has been wonderful. When things were closed and we couldn’t come and go as we wanted to, was I upset? Yes,” Carla reflects. “But we knew it was for the best to take care of the people who are living there, to protect their residents. We knew that and I knew that.”

There are encouraging signs at Fieldcrest, with the resumption of weekly clergy-led worship services and more social activities, still with virus precautions. The community offers 69 one- and two-bedroom assisted living apartments for seniors who need 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.

A life of service and celebrity

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Rose Bancks is working to defeat her second pandemic. She fought off her first when she was just two years old, back in 1918. Rose celebrated her 105th birthday on January 8, with her friends at Vista Prairie at Goldfinch Estates in Fairmont, MN. And just a few days ago, Rose rolled up her sleeves again, to keep COVID-19 out of Goldfinch. The community has not recorded a single resident positive test since this pandemic struck Martin County, almost a year ago.

As a nurse, Rose has spent most of her life in service to others, sometimes for famous people. She tells the story of care for Lucille Ball in 1943 while working in a California hospital during World War II. 

Born in Wisconsin, Rose was a teenager during the great depression, in a family that was frequently on the move. She began her 41-year nursing career in 1937 when she got her diploma in Spokane, Washington. During the war, she volunteered to be a nurse in the Army at the age of 25.

Stationed in California in 1943, she worked at Birmingham General Hospital in Van Nuys caring for injured soldiers as well as celebrities like Lucille Ball. She also was appointed to be the private nurse for Aurora Quezon, the wife of the Philippines president, after her gallbladder surgery. For several days after she was discharged to a private residence, Rose continued her care for the first lady there. She described Quezon as a gracious person. 

The hospital is also where Rose met her husband Leo, a Dentist in the Army. Leo was sent off to Japan during the war but when they were reunited after the war, they moved the family back to Minnesota. 

In Fairmont, Rose served as the Director of Nursing for the former Fairmont Hospital and retired in 1978 from the new Fairmont hospital, now part of the Mayo Healthcare System. Looking back on her life and career, Rose is very grateful for the time she spent as a nurse in the service, and for being able to help so many soldiers.

Rose and Leo had three children, eight grandchildren and 21 great grandchildren. Leo passed away in 1996.

Goldfinch Estates has been home for Rose for more than 10 years, second most in longevity of its some 119 residents. When asked what she has enjoyed most about her Goldfinch years, she said, “I have had so many wonderful girls take care of me and so many nice people here to visit with and we have had so many good activities.”

Goldfinch Estates offers 92 one and two-bedroom apartments for seniors who want access to supportive services. We also offer 41 memory care suites that provide a long-term option for seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.

A pioneer in our midst

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Foster Dunwiddie doesn’t need an elevator as a resident of Vista Prairie at Brentwood, our new community in Rice Lake, Wisconsin. Brentwood is built on one level. Foster knows a lot about elevators though, as a pioneering architect with a rich history in iconic public buildings, including the old Met Stadium in Bloomington, MN. It was the original home of the Minnesota Twins after they moved from Washington, DC. Foster recalled a big design challenge caused by a budget shortfall early on.

“The initial design had a shaft for an elevator, but we couldn’t afford the elevator,” Foster recalled in a 2018 video about his career. “Once we got a commitment from the Washington Senators that they were coming, funds loosened up a great deal.”

Now 95, Foster was educated at the University of Wisconsin as a civil engineer but an interest in sketching eventually drew him to the School of Architecture at the University of Minnesota. He later helped establish the firm of Miller Dunwiddie where he remained for most of his 50+ year career. He became best known for his groundbreaking work in accessibility as a member of the Architectural Barriers Committee of the Minnesota Society of Architects.

“I had broken both my heels in a construction accident,” Foster remembers. “I suddenly found myself confined to a wheelchair and facing the problems of those in a wheelchair.” He pointed out at that time, there wasn’t legislation requiring the accommodations we have today. “I was lobbying the State Legislature to revise the Minnesota Building Code to require handicapped parking spaces, accessible door entry-ways and restroom modifications for people in wheelchairs.”

Foster’s other key contribution was in historic preservation. He pioneered what he described as a “detective project” to ensure that the restoration of Ft. Snelling was historically accurate. He also designed restorations for the Minnesota State Capitol building in the mid 1980’s.

“We had to make sure the public spaces were accessible so that witnesses for hearings could get into the building,” Foster said. “I also restored the House and the Senate chambers to make them accessible to people with disabilities.”

Foster and his wife Shirley moved to Brentwood in 2011. Shirley passed away a year ago, a short time after she and Foster had moved into memory care. “They’ve been very responsible meeting my needs here,” Foster concludes. And about the food? “I belong to the clean-plate club, and I’ve been working overtime.”

The Brentwood community offers 28 one and two-bedroom apartments for seniors who value their independence but want options for personal care and supportive services. We also offer 19 memory care suites that provide a long-term option for seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.