Purpose is a three-letter word

Posted on

Joy – that’s the clear purpose Hazel has chosen for this chapter of her 92-year-old life, living at Vista Prairie at Garnette Gardens in Redwood Falls, MN. Joy has not come easy for Hazel. Eleven years ago, she lost her husband Bob. Since then, one of her four sons died, and she’s also recently lost two brothers and a sister. She’s the longest surviving of 13 siblings.

And still, she expresses lots of joy. “I love it here. I love the people. I take part in anything that I can to stay busy. That’s the reason I like it here.”

Activities Manager Catie Helgeson plans and provides many of the options that keep residents busy and Hazel is often by her side, helping out. “She wakes up with a purpose every day, bringing joy to others,” Catie reflects. “When we have entertainment, she’s right down there dancin’ with the other residents and just having a ball.”

The community was even more dependent on each other during this past COVID year when outside visitors were limited.

“We talked back and forth a lot and that kept me going,” Hazel remembers. “I knew – this is what it is — and I’ve gotta deal with it. So, I’ve tried to keep busy and just go with the flow.”

That’s been a theme for Hazel ever since she took a bus from her home state of Alabama back in the 50s, to visit her future husband’s family in Minnesota. They had gone together in Alabama while Bob was there on an engineering job. This was in December. They were married that New Year’s Eve.

“She’s a gift to all of us here,” Catie concluded.

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 enhanced care for people recovering from surgery or illness.

Two women met at a bar —

Posted on

Well not really. Karissa Kosek actually met 96-year-old Anne, a resident, shortly after Karissa assumed her new position as the Activities Manager for Vista Prairie at Copperleaf in Willmar, MN. They’re enjoying time together in Copperleaf’s Suds Room, where residents often gather for a beverage or a game of pool.

Karissa, 20, graduated from Ridgewater College in Hutchison, MN with an associates degree in marketing and communications. She and Anne became friends in July, soon after Karissa began her first full-time job at Copperleaf.

“Anne came to a lot of activities, so I got to know her first,” Karissa recalls. “She was someone who I could always rely on and know that she would be there.”

Reliability is Anne’s Copperleaf calling card. “I can’t sit still,” she says. “I’ve got a sewing machine here and I do things for people like sewing on curtains or whatever they want.”

In fact, her current project is to make lap-robes as gifts for every Copperleaf resident to keep them cozy this coming winter. She’s been doing this sort of thing since she retired 18 years ago from a career spanning more than 30 years as a health aide in nursing homes and group homes.

It’s one reason the move to Copperleaf 18 months ago came naturally. “It just felt like home,” Anne remembers.

Warm first impressions also helped Karissa get off to a good start, “The community here is very welcoming, and we’re always doing something; so it doesn’t ever feel like work,” she says.     

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.

A cool tribute to a warm heart

Posted on

Bill’s loyalties are clearly communicated in the photo at left, from the kitchen at Vista Prairie at Monarch Meadows in North Mankato, MN. In addition to being a patriotic American, Bill is a loyal University of Iowa booster and a proud Air Force veteran. But none of those bonds compare to his deep love for Barb, his wife of 54 years, who passed away earlier this year.

Bill and Barb’s family asked how they could honor Barb in some tangible way. Culinary Manager Barry Ahl had the perfect answer — a brand-new icemaker, which sits between Chef Barry and Bill in the photo. The icy installation is the right tribute for Barb’s warm heart because she and Bill had served as Monarch Meadows’ Resident Ambassadors for many months. They greeted residents in the community’s two dining rooms at mealtimes. Barb also baked cookies to give away, every day.

This is just one of many big-hearted stories from Vista Prairie Communities. And there are many ways to give, to help us support our mission of compassion and joy. Tribute or memorial gifts not only help remember a loved one, they provide those extra comforts that may elude today’s stretched operating budgets. We also appreciate gifts for capital investments that improve and expand our spaces or provide enhanced equipment.

A donation to the community of your choice or to Vista Prairie Communities is completely tax-exempt. For more information on giving options, or ways to volunteer please contact us at 952.837.0540 or development@vistaprairie.org.

Build Trust

Posted on

Teaching business principles in a classroom of high-schoolers or helping to manage a large senior living community — the key to success is the same – build trust. That’s Mandy Farrow’s mantra as she assumes her new role as the Executive Director for Vista Prairie at Goldfinch Estates in Fairmont, MN. Mandy should know. She brings experience on both sides of that career track. 

“You build trust with people, whether it’s the people you teach or the people you’re caring for, only if you prove to them that you’ll follow through with the things you have promised,” Mandy says. “Until you build that trust, you can’t make any real progress.”  

Mandy’s trust building experience also includes running a kitchen and bathroom remodeling business with her husband for 15 years before she decided to pursue teaching. To prepare for that, she obtained her Master’s in Education before teaching in two area high schools. Her undergraduate degree is in business management. 

About a year ago, based on her business management background, Mandy was hired as the business office manager at Goldfinch, during the height of the pandemic. 

“I was so impressed with the leadership team, the people I was working with,” Mandy recalls of that time. “It was difficult to explain to families when they couldn’t come in. That was the hardest thing, trying to be compassionate and strict at the same time, to keep everyone safe.” 

And Goldfinch did just that. While Martin County had suffered 2,376 COVID cases by the end of July, only a handful of Goldfinch residents or staff ever tested positive. Much of that credit goes to the nursing staff, and the leadership of Mandy’s predecessor, Pamela Rubis, who is retiring. 

“The separation from families was devastating for our residents,” Pamela recalls. “Our staff rose to the crisis to support the residents to the best of their abilities, adding joy to their days and nights. Fortunately, all our residents are vaccinated. After the initial crisis of the pandemic a few of the residents tested positive but were never symptomatic.” 

The Goldfinch culture that Pamela cultivated provided the positive energy that the staff brings to the community every day – the culture that attracted Mandy to be its next leader. “They really are living the mission and the values of Vista Prairie,” Pamela says. 

And that also helped build trust with the community, since the word was out that Goldfinch did not have a COVID outbreak during the height of the pandemic. 

“It’s been a very rewarding, a privilege and blessing to work with the amazing residents, families and team at Goldfinch Estates,” Pamela concludes.

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

20 Years of Compassion and Joy

Posted on

When resident Marv Diekevers got his COVID-19 vaccination in January, he was part of the latest chapter in the 20-year history of Vista Prairie at Fieldcrest in Sheldon, Iowa. That history was the topic of this article by Justin Rust, managing editor of the Sheldon Mail-Sun, which we reprint here, with permission:

________________________________________

Fieldcrest celebrates 20th anniversary – June 21, 2021

Providing a joy filled atmosphere is the goal of the staff at Vista Prairie at Fieldcrest Senior Living Community in Sheldon.

That goal was tested recently by the coronavirus pandemic, which forced the facility to close its doors to visitors for about a year to help protect the residents from a virus that harmed seniors the most.

It also left them isolated except for their interactions with the Fieldcrest staff and their fellow residents.

The goal didn’t change, though. It only amplified how important it was to remain joyful.

“We have remained positive and joyful and committed to having the best experience you can have,” said Fieldcrest senior executive director Calvin Diekmann. “Plus we are keeping them safe. We offered the vaccine and we have done just wonderful in the past 16 months.”

As the pandemic winds down, it comes as Fieldcrest is celebrating a major milestone since the facility at 2501 E. Sixth St. reached its 20th anniversary this past week.

A celebration was planned for Thursday, but a heat advisory forced the Fieldcrest staff to postpone it until Sept. 16. Diekmann and his staff didn’t want the residents to suffer from the extreme heat.

“Our main goal is to always serve the residents and help them live in a joy filled environment,” Diekmann said. “That’s always our main goal.”

When Fieldcrest was opened 20 years ago, it has 56 assisted living rooms. In 2014, 13 assisted living rooms were added along with 12 memory care apartments. That was the same year VistaPrairie became the ownership company of Fieldcrest.

Diekmann has been with Fieldcrest for nine years.

“By far my favorite part of this job is listening and visiting with the residents,” Diekmann said.

The residents are also Fieldcrest director of health and services Jennifer Roos’ favorite part of her job. She has been with Fieldcrest for seven years.

“No matter how bad your morning started, once you walk through the door, there’s a resident to greet you,” Roos said. “It changes your day. I love coming to work every day and I love my job. I love seeing them all.”

While the residents help the staff stay positive, keeping that same attitude was hard with the pandemic.

The staff knew it had to push through during the toughest stretch of the facility’s 20 years.

“Him and I, we had to stay positive because all of the staff was looking up to us. If they saw we weren’t being positive, it was huge for them as well,” Roos said. “So being positive and coming in every day, doing the best we could to keep the residents safe and happy and keep the staff safe as well. It wasn’t easy, it was hard every day, hard on the staff every day and we made it through.”

Roos gave credit to Judy Wallace, Fieldcrest’s activities manager, and Heidi Starkenburg, Wallace’s activity assistant, for keeping the residents in good spirits over the last year.

“I really saw Judy evolve throughout the pandemic because she had to change so much,” Roos said. “Heidi did one on ones with residents all day long. They were huge during the pandemic with really keeping their spirits up. There were no group activities during it. Judy would take arts and crafts to them and they had different games they would do with the residents.”

Diekmann added he had to watch for remote control cars since they would be racing down the hallways.

Fieldcrest opened back up to visitors in April and group activities resumed for residents a couple of months ago.

“Last week Judy and Heidi brought a bus full of residents to Hills Park. They had watermelon and there may have been a small water fight,” Diekmann said with a laugh. “They came back and some of them stopped by my office to say how much they enjoyed it. They are so glad we can do those things again.”

Wallace has even been able to bring back a fan favorite.

“She has an ice cream truck and the residents love the ice cream truck,” Roos said. “She has different flavors of ice cream and music they can play. It’s one of the residents favorites as well.”

With all of the amenities and activities Fieldcrest offers, Diekmann said the facility is “pretty unique.”

“We are the only assisted living facility in the area with full sized kitchens and two bedroom apartments,” Diekmann said. “Our staff is just amazing. They are so resident focused and we live the joy every day. During COVID, sure there would be good days and bad days but our staff always came back with a smile on their face. We have the most courageous staff ever. I am bias but that’s what I would say.”

Even with all that Fieldcrest has to offer, it’s the residents who impress Diekmann the most.

“I am just in awe every day when I come in here. It’s just so rewarding when a resident tells you thank you,” Diekmann said. “Or even if they are upset about something and we can fix it. It’s so amazing to see the happiness they have when the families got to come back in. To me, those are the big things.”

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.