Category Archives: News & Events

Going the distance

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Eight years after Maya Kamrath joined the staff of Vista Prairie at Brentwood in Rice Lake Wisconsin, she’s still going the distance, for residents and now for her Ukrainian family 5,000 miles away. The Vista Prairie organization recently got behind Maya to send financial support from its employee fund donations to her birth mother Sveta, stepfather Sergii and brother Anton, none of whom she’s met in person. They live in Kyiv and so far, they’re safe, with the Russian invasion focused on other parts of the country.

Her Ukrainian family reacted last week to Vista Prairie’s support, “Thank you for helping us out at such a difficult time. We are also grateful to our daughter, Maya for organizing help.” And Maya added, “A special thank you for all the Vista Prairie Communities joining in together to make this possible for my family.”

Maya has literally come a long way – from a diet of oatmeal and potato soup in Kyiv to a secure adoptive home in Rice Lake. From a six-year-old’s insecurities in two orphanages, to a Certified Nursing Assistant and Brentwood’s most senior caregiver.

When her Wisconsin mom, Kathy, decided she wanted to adopt a child, Maya relates that her favorite sport influenced the country where she wanted to adopt, “She loved figure skating and two of the top ice skaters in the world at that time were from Ukraine.” Thanks to Kathy’s more recent initiative, and social media, Maya located her birth mother two years ago and established regular contact.

When she first arrived in the U.S. at six-and-a-half, Maya acknowledges how vulnerable she was as she encountered her new language and surroundings. “For instance, a hug or a comfort touch, I didn’t allow it at first. I had to understand what a hug was and what it meant to be comforted.” Finally, she came to understand the power of receiving affection through giving care herself as a baby-sitter.

Maya also went the distance through running. As a Rice Lake 5th grader, she ran more than 170 miles, equal the distance to the Minnesota boarder and back home. That started a competitive running career that went through the state high-school cross-country meet. Reporter Dave Greschner captured that part of the story for the Rice Lake Chronotype.

Maya’s heart for caregiving grew in high school. After she finished her daily workouts, she often visited Kathy’s mother, her adoptive grandmother. She lived in a nearby senior community and eventually needed dementia care. Maya’s knack for meaningful connection led to the Brentwood staff position while Maya was still in high school.

Maya reflects on her challenging life experiences, “The empathy I learned lets me understand and adapt to the differences in our residents. That’s what stands out the most. My relationships with our residents are the best part of working at Brentwood.”

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.

Smiles for Copperleaf

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These four people are a sample of the smiles that will soon be seen throughout Vista Prairie at Copperleaf in Willmar, MN. A $1.4 million renovation is about to start, which will mean major innovations in dining, resident communication, and all-around enjoyment.

The four people pictured in Copperleaf’s movie room (yes there are four) are the key planners, from left: Ryan Erickson from Larson Building, Amy Bursey from Monogram Design Consultants (on the floor with carpet samples), Copperleaf Executive Director Jennie Marcus, and participating virtually on the video screen, Anna Petersmeyer, Vista Prairie’s Chief Operating Officer.

Following the recent green light from Vista Prairie’s Board of Directors, Jennie is ready to set the plans in motion with many local building suppliers in the mix. “Our residents will benefit from a transformed dining experience,” Jennie says, “thanks to a new kitchen and our renovated dining room, complete with more convenient restroom facilities.”

While Copperleaf has always been known for quality care, an innovative nurse-call system will take it up a notch. “The wearable units will put residents in two-way contact with our clinical staff,” Jennie noted. “These devices will help make sure we’re always there for the support residents need.” The units also will monitor vital signs to aid physicians and other healthcare professionals.

“We also want to create a beautiful outdoor dining area with views of the marsh behind our building and a pergola for shade,” Jennie said. “We’ll be coming to residents and members of the community for financial support to go beyond our renovation budget.”

Beyond the high-tech and convenience features, Copperleaf will get an extreme paint-up/fix up with new floor and wall treatments throughout the public spaces and updates in the community’s 24 memory care suites. The community offers 55 one-and-two-bedroom assisted living apartments and seven care suites in addition to memory care. Compassion and smiles all around.

Prodigal caregiver

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Mario Abundes recently returned to Vista Prairie at Fieldcrest in Sheldon Iowa as the community’s Lead Care Manager. He’s responsible to make sure Fieldcrest is appropriately staffed, 24-7, to provide the care and services that residents need. Mario is well suited for the job since his first Fieldcrest role was a resident assistant, at age 18. Now he’s back four years later, supervising those positions.

In the interim, Mario graduated from Sheldon High School, completed nine months of basic and specialist training in the Army Reserve, and 18 months of coursework at a Cedar Rapids community college – all building his resume for Fieldcrest’s management team. He felt confident last October when he applied to rejoin that team.

“They needed someone who already knew and cared for the residents,” he recalls. “I knew everybody and got along with everyone. I don’t have my grandparents here,” Mario explains. “My grandparents live in Mexico, so I rarely get to see them. The residents here treat me like family, and that feels nice.”

He also credits the asset of his Army training. “It was a very different experience. There were people from different states, with different backgrounds and different cultures but we were all there for the same thing,” he recounts. “The Army taught us how well you can work with someone regardless of all your differences. It made you feel very acceptable.”

Mario also has learned how to adapt in other ways. While he was born in the U.S. after his folks immigrated 25 years ago for work, he was educated in both countries. Those migrations provided a crash course in climate adaptability. “When I go down there to visit, to them ‘cold’ is like in the 60s,” he says.

Mario is on track in two years to resume his schooling to become a licensed dental hygienist. Until that time comes, Fieldcrest has made him feel welcome. “When I came back to Sheldon after leaving, Fieldcrest was the only place that came to mind. I really enjoy it here. The residents are always interested in hearing about my ethnic background.”

The Fieldcrest 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.

Kindness

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Patrick Feely’s enduring kindness is why he was so beloved as the bus driver for Vista Prairie at Goldfinch Estates in Fairmont, MN. Pat retired on Feb. 11 after 12 years in that position. His wife Gayle was with him in St. Paul earlier that week, as LeadingAge MN recognized him as the Caregiver of the Year from Southwest Minnesota.

“I never thought of myself as a caregiver, I’m just the bus driver,” Pat commented to Martin County’s PhotoPress Newspaper. “But it’s a job I enjoy. I don’t want to quit, but I’m getting tired and it’s time to hang it up.”

Brian Brio, one of the speakers at the LeadingAge MN Institute where Pat received his award, offered his theories on the notion of kindness. He suggested creating a new title — CKO, Chief Kindness Officer. “The key job of the CKO is to help every person you touch to know they are important,” Brio said. He maintains that everybody can be a CKO since it requires, “no tenure, no political savvy and no advanced degree.”

Pat Feely was clearly a CKO at Goldfinch Estates. He was recognized by Leading Age because he “brought so much happiness and has exhibited nothing but kindness every day for the last 12 years,” said Mary Larson, the Goldfinch Community Sales and Marketing Manager.

Pat went to work for Goldfinch after he retired as a mail carrier. Joan was among the residents he served most recently after she moved in about two years ago. That gave Joan a unique view of Pat’s service career over many years. Her late husband Leonard Campe was Fairmont’s postmaster throughout Pat’s 38-year career with the U.S. Postal Service. “He was a wonderful employee, and my husband thought the world of him,” Joan said.

As the PhotoPress reported, Pat also encourages others to consider a career in a service-related industry. “My philosophy here is to just do good,” Pat said. “If you do good, everything will be okay with you and world will be a better place.”

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

King Marv – King Max

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Vista Prairie at Fieldcrest in Sheldon Iowa has a new set of “M&Ms” to honor — King Marvin and King Max. Resident Marv, 95, was crowned Fieldcrest’s king last February at its Valentine’s party. Now his great-grandson Max also has been crowned — king of the Orabs, at Sheldon High School’s Homecoming this fall.

What’s an Orab, you ask? “Orab stands for ‘orange and black,’” Max explains. “It’s just an acronym.” And what about wearing a crown in the same year as Marv does, “I got a text from my grandma a few days later asking if I knew my great grandfather is also a king. I thought that was really cool that we both share that.”

Marv’s reign extends for another three months, until Fieldcrest’s next Valentines party. He has the responsibility to name his own successor, “I just go through the crowd and pick one,” Marv explains. And he’s not letting his regal status go to his head, “It’s just one of those things,” Marv says.

Max is one of Marv’s 13 great grandchildren. The student body voted on his selection from among four candidates, as well as the Homecoming queen. Max also is staying humble about the honor, “I don’t expect any special treatment and prefer to just stick in with the crowd.”

Emulating his great grandfather is something that’s helped shape Max. He’s a four-sport athlete at Sheldon High, on the football, basketball, baseball and golf teams. Golf is the sport that most unites Marv and Max, “I remember him bringing me out to the golf course when I was a young kid and us sharing that common interest.”

The experience sunk in. Max shot a 38 on nine holes, during Sheldon’s first golf meet this season. Next year he’s almost certain he’ll enroll at the University of Kansas as a biology major and eventually pursue a career in dentistry. 

Given his busy senior schedule, Max visits Marv as often as he can but not as often as Marv would like. Just one of those things with busy students these days. 

The Fieldcrest 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.