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.

Family, Fervor and Faith

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It’s hard to decide which of the chapters in Dee’s nearly 101-year life had the greatest impact on her. While she’s now a memory care resident at Vista Prairie at River Heights in South St. Paul, MN, she can vividly recall details of three key chapters: her family, her fervor for music, and her faith.

Family — Dee and her first husband Burt had five girls and two boys, with the oldest child now 78. During World War II Burt enlisted with the Seabees, part of the Navy, building airfields, bridges and other big construction projects, often amid combat. “That’s what he loved,” Dee recalls, thankful that he came home safe.

Dee remarried after Burt died in 1963. That union produced a daughter who is now 55. The children and grandchildren visit her often. “They all have their turns,” she says.

Fervor – Dee took after her father, a professional musician, to pursue her own musical passion as an accomplished pianist and organist. She was a frequent entertainer for more than 20 years, with West St. Paul’s Southview Country Club being one of her favorite venues.

Burt was not thrilled with Dee being gone at night for her playing engagements, “He thought I should be home,” Dee recalls. “I just said ‘I love doing this. You went into the Seabees because you loved the Seabees, and that’s the way I feel about my music,’ and he didn’t make a fuss after that.”

She played by ear, never using sheet music, “I enjoyed every minute,” she says, with songs like It Had To Be You and All Of You some of the regulars in her repertoire.

Faith – “I was not overly religious, but I do have a strong faith,” Dee reflects. “I just prayed for everything.”

The Catholic Eucharist is still an important part of her life even though it’s most often delivered to her. Faith has been central since she attended Catholic grade school and high school. It was so important to Dee’s parents for her to attend St. Francis de Sales School on West Seventh Street that she lived with her aunt during the school-week and came home on weekends.

Dee looks forward to playing a keyboard at River Heights, which offers 16 memory care suites in addition to 44 assisted living apartments. Click here for the River Heights brochure – featuring Dee on the cover, or call Michael at 651-326-6502 to learn more about River Heights. He’ll be happy to give you a tour.

Transitions

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Carole and Jerry have been residents of Vista Prairie at Brentwood in Rice Lake, Wisconsin for 10 weeks. It’s the biggest transition in their life together, except perhaps when they got married 20 years ago, at the age of 68. They blended their families from previous marriages. She has four children, and he has three.

Their decision to move to Brentwood came when Jerry was in the hospital in Eau Claire recovering from an unexplained issue with his legs, which resulted in exchanging his riding lawnmower for a walker. It all started when he was mowing his two-acre lawn at their house in Campia, northeast of Rice Lake.

“I came to a stop, and I couldn’t get off the lawnmower,” Jerry recalls. “So I fell, and my neighbor and my son got me up and walked me into the house.”

That incident was enough for Carole and Jerry to seek a more secure place to live, at the urging of Jerry’s daughter, JoEllen, who lives in the Twin Cities. She and her siblings grew up on Jerry’s dairy and beef-cattle farm where he had long supported their 4-H and FFA activities. Now it was JoEllen’s turn to guide their next steps.

“I like this place,” Jerry reflects. “I love the meals and I love the care they give you. They come in every morning and take my temperature and weigh me.”

The couple brought their car with them to Brentwood, where they rent a garage. Carole will do the driving when the weather gets a little better. Her family lives in Tennessee and California. She’s looking forward to a reunion with them this spring.

Like most new residents, Carole and Jerry are going through all the stages that William Bridges described in his classic book, Transitions – Making Sense of Life’s Changes. They have experienced an ending for their time living together in Campia. They are now in what Bridges calls, “the Neutral Zone,” where they are adapting to their new surroundings and patterns. And they’ve already embraced their “New Beginning” at Brentwood, with the help of a loving staff, their new friends, and great food.

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.

Colleen’s Compassion

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Jeanette (left) is a resident of Vista Prairie at Garnette Gardens in Redwood Falls, MN. In the photo, she’s visiting with Colleen Marcus, recently named Garnette’s new executive director. Jeanette is 87 years old and the oldest of nine children. Her little sister Barb, aged 83, also lives at Garnette Gardens.

While Colleen is the new ED, she’s not new to Garnette, having served in various sales and marketing roles for the last six years. The fact that she already has a relationship with Jeanette and all the other residents is a big plus.

“The residents have the comfort level of knowing me,” says Colleen. “They don’t have a problem coming and talking to me, which is kind of nice.” Colleen promotes her open door, “That means for residents and families of residents to come and see me and my door is open for staff as well.”

Colleen remembers the story of a woman who moved to Garnette recently who has four sons, two of whom she already knew. That happens a lot in the small town of Redwood Falls, population 5,000. Colleen recalled that one of the sons she knew had a brother they thought might be skeptical about their mom moving into an assisted living community.

“They toured Garnette and he came along,” Colleen recalls. “By the end of the tour he was saying, ‘I think this is a good idea.’” After Colleen’s promotion was announced, she received a congratulatory call from that son, saying, “I gotta tell you they made a good decision because you sold me on moving mom in when I really came that day wondering if it was a good idea.”

Colleen figures that to build his confidence in Garnette, she needed to show the son that his mother would be treated with compassion when she moved in. “Compassion is a way of being empathetic with residents, understanding where they’re coming from,” she says, “and understanding that moving to Garnette is a good thing for his mom, because of the companionship that she’ll have. Some people are at the mercy of being stuck where they are with nobody to come and see them. Here, they can be out and about, make friends, find their joy and not be so lonely.”

Colleen emphasized that, with rare exceptions, residents could always access Garnette’s common areas, even during COVID. Most recently, the MN Department of Health has lifted all restrictions, allowing visitors to come and go and residents to leave the building when they wish, even in the rare times there’s a positive test for COVID in the building.

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. We also offer 16 memory care suites. Nine care suites round out the options, offering a higher level of assisted living care and supervision.

Joy for Joyce

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The joy on Joyce’s face was evident when Kacee visited Vista Prairie at Copperleaf in Willmar, MN. One hundred-year-old Joyce was one of about a dozen Copperleaf residents who gathered last month to greet Kacee, her canine companion Luna, and their owner/trainers Al and Claudia Balay.

Kacee and Luna are both rescue dogs. Their regular inside visits recently resumed after COVID visiting guidelines eased.  They became regular Copperleaf visitors after Al’s mother Gertie moved into Copperleaf more than five years ago. “We liked that mom was in a smaller facility like this where the staff gets to know her and the staff gets to know us,” Al reflected.

Al has been a veterinarian for 44 years. For 25 of those years, he directed and expanded the Veterinary Technician program at Willmar’s Ridgewater College.  He and Claudia manage a horse farm near New London where they board and care for 16 horses, with the help of farm dogs, Luna and Kacee.

Claudia also stays active working with youth involved in 4-H. Kacee has scored highly in 4-H competition at the county and state level. “She enjoys her work a lot,” says Claudia, crediting Kacee, “as you could probably see when she was vocalizing for the residents.”

Benefits for the residents are obvious now that the dogs’ visits have resumed. What do Al and Claudia get out of it?  “Making people smile,” Claudia says without hesitation. “It’s very satisfying for me to know that I can give back through the animals.”

“My mom loves the dogs too,” Al adds. “When we were restricted through COVID, we would walk out around behind the building and still brought the dogs so she and the other residents could see them through the window.”

Copperleaf senior living community offers 55 one-and-two-bedroom assisted living apartments, 20 memory care suites and seven care suites, providing 24-hour continuous senior care.