Category Archives: volunteering

An oasis in the side pocket

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Here’s a riddle. When can a pool table be a concession for both candy and hair conditioner? Vista Prairie at Fieldcrest in Sheldon, Iowa has the answer. Once a month, Jan, a four-year Fieldcrest resident converts the community’s game room pool table to a pop-up store covered with convenience items that residents want most.

Fieldcrest activities manager Judy Wallace remembers Jan’s reaction when she recruited her to manage the store, “She said ‘Yes I’ll do it. I think it’ll be fun.’ Toothbrushes and toothpaste, those are the necessities, but the candy is what really flies out of there,” Judy reports.

Initially, it was fun for Jan and for the residents to have another outlet, “It gets them out of their apartments to another area to socialize. Seeing other people helps us mingle and feel connected,” Jan reflects.

But having a social oasis hasn’t replaced the family interaction that residents miss so dearly since the coronavirus hit. “It breaks my heart that I can’t see them as often as I’d like,” says Jan. With the pandemic now seven months old, Jan feels lonesome and yearns for family visits free of time limits and conditions. With positive tests still high in Northwest Iowa, it’s a prevalent feeling among all residents and staff. Fieldcrest would like nothing more than to open up, as soon as it’s safe.

“It’s harder than I could have ever, ever, ever expected,” says Judy. “Being on the front line every day is very challenging. I’ve cried more tears than I knew were possible.” Still, she’ll keep coming up with innovative ideas to help residents feel engaged and part of the community.

Fieldcrest Assisted Living 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.

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.

Tapping experience and a service heart

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Mary Lou has seen some of this before, back in the 1970s. That experience motivates her to deliver meals to fellow residents of Vista Prairie at River Heights. Her years helping to operate the Lakeview residence in Virginia, on Minnesota’s Iron Range, provide perspective for the needs where she lives now in South St Paul.

“We had 18 or 19 residents living on three floors, no elevators and no air conditioning,” Mary Lou recalls about her days in Virginia. “We did 24-hour care — food was provided, medications, outings. It was like an assisted living facility.”

She and her husband were both registered nurses, working in Minneapolis, “We went to Lake Vermillion on a vacation and absolutely fell in love with the area. Within six months we were up North.”

And six years later, they owned the Lakeview residence. With her added experience owning and running a restaurant in nearby Biwabik, volunteering to help at River Heights amid the added food service responsibilities is a “no-brainer.”

“I live here, and I’m pretty much available,” she says. “I decided I would offer my services and they could utilize me.”

An accident in her Biwabik home compelled the assisted living move for Mary Lou. Her son and daughter-in-law, back in the Twin Cities, convinced her that being closer was better than being four hours away. “My son is wonderful support,” she says. “He and his wife and my two grandchildren keep me active and alive and happy.”

Mary Lou says she also enjoys seeing fellow residents on a different basis when she puts on her mask and delivers a meal. “We’re seeing each other more than just at activities or in the dining room. We talk about things every time I visit.”

The gardens at River Heights are coming alive again this spring. And inside, this warm and welcoming community offers assisted living in 44 apartments, as well as 16 memory care suites. Want to learn more about River Heights? Call Danielle at 651-326-6501.