As the Alexandria Echo Press reported this week, Vista Prairie at Windmill Ponds has a novel answer for the staffing challenge that plagues so many services these days. Employ an entire family. While they don’t see that much of each other on the job, four members of the Mattson family are now serving Windmill Ponds residents.
From left to right in the photo, Katie (Mattson) Childers is a part-time culinary aide, helping in the kitchen and serving residents at mealtimes. Katie’s brother Chris Mattson is the long-time activities manager. Kathy Mattson and husband Michael, the oldest sibling, are both resident assistants, Kathy for three years and Michael for one.
Michael works 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. during the week and every other weekend. His transition involved a career shift from retail, selling and fitting customers for CPAP equipment. He’s a registered respiratory therapist who earlier worked in that field for 33 years in hospitals and clinical settings. “I wanted to get back into direct personal care,” Michael reflected. “I like the variety, and places like this needed help in the pandemic.”
Kathy and Michael have been married for 36 years. She’s a long-time caregiver who wanted to go to a smaller setting. “I like to get to know everyone that we’re working with, residents and staff,” she says. Kathy described her care for a 90-something resident with whom she has a close trusting relationship. “She’s really neat. You go in and visit and we just talk.” And all the while, Kathy is helping her take a bath or get dressed or about anything she needs to do.
Chris Mattson, the middle child of the trio, has served as the Windmill Ponds activities director for 11 years. Chris says the best part of the job is “making a resident’s day, even if the resident is 103.” While Alexandria winters do get long, he eagerly awaits summer on the area’s beautiful lakes. He’s a long-time volunteer for Let’s Go Fishing, which provides summer excursions for Windmill Ponds residents and other nonprofits.
Katie is the youngest Mattson sibling. “The residents here each have a gift; there’s something special about each of them that lets you strike up a conversation,” Katie relates. “They have so much purpose left and so many gifts to give. They enrich our lives, so much.” Katie works the dinner service and weekends, and during the summer, when she’s not teaching interior design at Alexandria Technical and Community College. She has been on the faculty there five years, after a successful career as a designer.
Why do they do it? Good seeds, planted by the siblings’ parents are one reason. Their mother Carmen encouraged the kids to volunteer with senior care facilities when they were growing up. She died in 2016 after a four-year stay at Windmill Ponds. Their father George passed away six years earlier, having run an interior design business since 1959 and also teaching at Alexandria College.
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.