Category Archives: Resident stories

Trust

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During their 70-year marriage and then some, Shirley and Ken have trusted each other in their most important decisions. They placed their trust in their daughter three years ago when they moved into Vista Prairie at Monarch Meadows in North Mankato, MN. Now 92, they look back on a life raising two girls and two boys, who have reciprocated with 14 grandchildren and 20 great grandchildren, one of whom just entered college.

Most of Shirley and Ken’s working lives were spent operating a fourth-generation dairy farm in Nicollet County, where they milked 50 cows, raised chickens, and tended a variety of crops. Shirley says she particularly enjoyed raising 1,000 chickens and working in the fields. When it was time to slow down and hand over the farm to younger operators they decided to move to an apartment, where they lived for 12 years. Then came the decision to seek out assisted living.

“We decided to move ourselves,” Shirley says, “then our daughter started looking around and she thought this sounded good.” That was four months before the pandemic struck. While they stayed in touch by phone, Ken and Shirley agree it was a difficult time not seeing their family.

In hindsight, they’re happy they made the move when they did, including giving up their car, which they were still driving when they moved to Monarch Meadows.

Now, visiting is back in full swing. And when there’s no active COVID-19 outbreak to stifle, the community offers a well subscribed menu of activities from outings to the ever-popular bingo, Shirley’s favorite. Ken says he likes everything about the regular exercise program that Monarch Meadows provides, “It’s helping me with my balance,” he says.

The ultimate in trust for Ken and Shirley is their faith in God. Shirley describes her faith as part of her purpose now, “We’re supposed to talk about it to other people,” she says, “that the Lord is good.”

Thanks, Shirley and Ken for living your purpose, through trust.

Vista Prairie at Monarch Meadows offers 87 one-and-two-bedroom assisted living apartments and 11 care suites. We also provide two respite suites, for short-term care when home caregivers need a break. Call (507) 933-4681 to book a tour.

A legacy that keeps giving

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Juanita Schmeeckle’s big heart and keen intellect live on in annual grants provided for Martin County nonprofits. Vista Prairie at Goldfinch Estates is connected in more than one way to Juanita’s legacy. Juanita made Goldfinch Estates her home in 2009. Mary Larson remembers accompanying Goldfinch’s nurse to Juanita’s home at that time, to assess her care needs.

“She lived a very modest, low key and private life,” says Mary, who recently retired as the Goldfinch Estates Community Sales and Marketing Manager. “She was an amazingly intelligent lady. She was very well traveled and had a style of her own!”

Before she moved-in to Goldfinch Estates, Juanita and a group of trustees established the Schmeeckle Foundation. The organization ensured that Juanita’s estate would be used to enrich lives through “innovation and creative collaboration,” as the website says. The Foundation’s Martin County focus includes early childhood care and education, people who are disabled and elderly, and the arts.

A second connection came in 2020 as Goldfinch Estates was honored to receive one of the Foundation’s grants. “The grant assisted us with career development, convenience services and support programs,” said Executive Director Kacey Kasel. “As a result, staff retention has increased and our need to bring in staff from outside agencies was drastically reduced, allowing our residents to be cared for by local staff who know their needs best.”

Goldfinch Estates is proud to be part of Juanita Schmeeckle’s legacy and her foresight. “Thank you, Kacey, and the rest of your staff for the care you give to the residents of Goldfinch,” said Shirley Maschoff, one of the Foundation’s trustees. “Juanita was very well cared for during the time she spent in your memory care unit, and we appreciate it.”

Specifically, the foundation grant funded a generous tuition assistance program that provided support for seven Resident Assistants to become Certified Nursing Assistants through the Minnesota Department of Health. Front-line staff also got recognition through programs like Employee of the Month. Finally, meals were made available to front-line staff by Goldfinch’s culinary staff to assist with the challenges of long duty shifts.

The community 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.

Excursions

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Larry and Sylvia have enjoyed most of their excursions since they moved into Vista Prairie at Brentwood in Rice Lake, Wisconsin last May. By far, their favorite was to the Northern Wisconsin Veterans Memorial Cemetery, north of Rice Lake near Spooner. Sylvia has been there three times, and Larry twice.

“Stuck out among all the trees and cornfields is this beautiful tribute to the people in our country who have given their lives,” Sylvia says. “It was nice to see that it had that much impact on the locals and other people. You didn’t have to be from here.”

Following Sylvia’s solo introduction as part of an organized Brentwood trip, she and Larry went back to the cemetery* the next day. They also put it on the agenda for a visit from old friends from Madison, where Larry and Sylvia spent their working years and raised their kids.

Another excursion wasn’t quite what Sylvia expected. Curious about the borders of Brentwood’s hilltop property, she ventured out the back door for what she thought would be a short walk, without telling Larry or anyone else what she was up to. She soon was headed out of sight and down a hillside, which at the age of 86, was too steep for her to climb back up. “It wasn’t getting any better,” Sylvia recalls, “and finally I got tired, and I sat down on the grass and scooted along — all the way to the end of the property, which is where the staff found me.”

Picking up the story, Larry had become concerned when Sylvia did not appear for lunch. Among her other actions, Brentwood’s Executive Director, Rita Gronski had alerted the couple’s son Dane, an executive at WJMC Radio in Rice Lake, who headed over to the community. Activities Manager, Lee Ann Kritch, jumped in her car while other staffers looked closer to the building. Lee Ann soon spotted Sylvia from the car; Sylvia got in, and all was well.

After four months at Brentwood, Sylvia acknowledges the good food, the staff’s kindness, and the cleanliness of the community. But she stresses that initially, she did not want to leave the home she and Larry had built for their retirement years.

“I’d rather be somewhere else,” Sylvia says, “where I don’t know. The place that I loved is gone. So, it’s having to wrestle with those emotions. And they’re so extreme.”

Larry, at age 88, was more open to their life-changing excursion from the Madison area to Rice Lake. “Sooner or later, this decision had to be made,” he says. “You can’t live and support yourself your whole life. At some point, you need assisted living if you’re going to live to a big age.”

The Brentwood community offers options for residents on all sides of that spectrum, with 28 one and two-bedroom apartments for seniors who want options for personal care and supportive services along with their freedom of movement. We also offer 19 memory care suites that provide a long-term option for seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.

*Photo reprint with permission from the Spooner Advocate.

Still teaching, still learning

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Le is learning how to better navigate her cell phone, a constant companion. She moved to Vista Prairie at Fieldcrest in Sheldon, Iowa to be closer to two sisters and her physician, as they assist her in navigating the challenges of Parkinson’s Disease. That also is a constant learning experience.

She got her education degree at Augustana in Sioux Falls, SD, and for more than 30 years taught special education in a small school district in northern Minnesota, Kindergarten through high school. She and her ex-husband, also a teacher, lived and taught in Orr, MN, the gateway to Voyageur’s National Park.

“We lived in 10 acres of woods,” Le recounts. “We heated by wood and sawed our own lumber. At times we drug eight-foot lengths out of the forest.” It was a family affair, putting up wood for the winter, usually many cords for each heating season. They also had a large garden and butchered their own chickens.

Five years ago, Le traded tall trees for tall corn in northwest Iowa, where she’s now better equipped to cope with her Parkinson’s Disease. She’s hoping there will be some lessons from her trials for her two sisters and two brothers who are all younger.

Le devoted her entire career to helping kids with disabilities. Now, at the age of 77, she’s devoted to managing her own disability, “I try to do as many of my exercises as I can.” She says that while she would like access to a therapeutic heated swimming pool, the Fieldcrest community is meeting her psychosocial needs and it’s great to be close to family.

Fieldcrest 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.

Keeps on Ticking

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Maxine has been through her share of difficulties in the last four months, but you wouldn’t know it from her smile. The photo was taken as she had boarded a pontoon for a ride on Alexandria’s Lake Victoria. It’s again a regular activities option for Vista Prairie at Windmill Ponds.

Maxine, now 91, has been back at Windmill Ponds since June, following minor injuries from a fall. Her accident meant she’d need to go to a skilled nursing facility for rehab. While there she experienced more health problems that sent her back to the hospital in April and May.

Maxine says she needed to do “a lot of exercising” to regain her strength to be discharged from the nursing home and rejoin her friends at Windmill Ponds. “Everyone is so attentive here,” she says. It was worth the effort, “I love the staff,” she says and all the things to do.

“I’ve had a really busy morning,” Maxine remembers, “and I like that to keep busy.” The morning started with exercise for a half hour. Then she got in a little nap before lunch, followed by a worship service.

“I had never heard one of their services before and I thought he did a very, very good job.” While the service might not replicate her home church, Maxine agrees with her two daughters that it was time for her to seek a higher level of care than they could provide in her home, even though they lived on either side of her house in Alexandria. “Especially after that fall, I realized I should not be by myself anymore. I don’t think I could be in a better place.”

And as for the pontoon ride? “I thought it was great. I’ve been around Lake Victoria many, many times but you still see new things. It was a great boat ride.”

The pontoon rides are courtesy of the nonprofit Let’s Go Fishing program, with generous support from area businesses. Windmill 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.