Tag Archives: senior living

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.

Christmas came early

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For the past year, Tammy Roemhildt has carried out a challenging role on the staff of Vista Prairie at Monarch Meadows in North Mankato, MN. As the Lead Care Manager, she’s responsible to ensure that the community is appropriately staffed, 24-7, to provide the care that residents need. And in these pandemic times, when staffing issues are well known in every profession, it’s the most stressful part of Tammy’s work.

As for the best part of the job, “It’s the residents, every single day,” Tammy quickly answers. “The staff who work here are pretty great and they’re hearing from residents how much we’re truly appreciated.” She also qualifies her staffing frustrations, “I don’t even really hate that because in the end, I see success. The teamwork is phenomenal.”

Tammy’s colleagues noticed. They nominated her for statewide recognition from LeadingAge, Minnesota’s largest senior care association.

Tammy is no stranger to adversity. Among other personal challenges, she encountered spinal meningitis when she was a young girl. “I could have had physical limitations the rest of my life,” she explains, “but somehow I popped through. I could have been a recipient of the care I’m now providing to others.” She also overcame ovarian and cervical cancer at the age of 23.

Through all that adversity, she’s been a role model and career mentor to her own adult daughter. As a thank-you for her support, her daughter presented an early Holiday gift – 50-yard-line tickets to last month’s Vikings-Packers football game for Tammy and her husband. Tammy was rooting for the Packers while her husband is a Vikings fan. That epic struggle is a good symbol for the challenges Tammy has faced in her life.

“Life gets tough” Tammy says, “and you just have to push through. When I come in at 6 a.m. I know there’s somebody else going through something totally different. You gotta make those sacrifices.”

Monarch Meadows, located in North Mankato, MN is one of our largest communities, with 86 one-and-two-bedroom assisted living apartments and 12 care suites. Call David at (507) 933-4681 to book a tour.

King Marv – King Max

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Vista Prairie at Fieldcrest in Sheldon Iowa has a new set of “M&Ms” to honor — King Marvin and King Max. Resident Marv, 95, was crowned Fieldcrest’s king last February at its Valentine’s party. Now his great-grandson Max also has been crowned — king of the Orabs, at Sheldon High School’s Homecoming this fall.

What’s an Orab, you ask? “Orab stands for ‘orange and black,’” Max explains. “It’s just an acronym.” And what about wearing a crown in the same year as Marv does, “I got a text from my grandma a few days later asking if I knew my great grandfather is also a king. I thought that was really cool that we both share that.”

Marv’s reign extends for another three months, until Fieldcrest’s next Valentines party. He has the responsibility to name his own successor, “I just go through the crowd and pick one,” Marv explains. And he’s not letting his regal status go to his head, “It’s just one of those things,” Marv says.

Max is one of Marv’s 13 great grandchildren. The student body voted on his selection from among four candidates, as well as the Homecoming queen. Max also is staying humble about the honor, “I don’t expect any special treatment and prefer to just stick in with the crowd.”

Emulating his great grandfather is something that’s helped shape Max. He’s a four-sport athlete at Sheldon High, on the football, basketball, baseball and golf teams. Golf is the sport that most unites Marv and Max, “I remember him bringing me out to the golf course when I was a young kid and us sharing that common interest.”

The experience sunk in. Max shot a 38 on nine holes, during Sheldon’s first golf meet this season. Next year he’s almost certain he’ll enroll at the University of Kansas as a biology major and eventually pursue a career in dentistry. 

Given his busy senior schedule, Max visits Marv as often as he can but not as often as Marv would like. Just one of those things with busy students these days. 

The Fieldcrest 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.

Sharing her smile

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Smiles come naturally for Rose Gibson, especially this one. Her photo was taken the day Olivia was born, her second great grandchild. Her smile was a frequent comment in many of the cards celebrating Rose’s recent 98th birthday. “Isn’t that something?” she ponders.

Rose and husband Warren moved into Vista Prairie at Windmill Ponds in Alexandria about six years ago. Warren passed away a few months later, so the staff and her fellow residents became Rose’s family. “I really like this place,” Rose says.  

Rose and Warren lived in three neighboring states during their 65-year marriage, while Warren pursued a financial services career. Locations included Fargo, North Dakota and Eau Claire, Wisconsin, as well as four Minnesota communities: St. Paul, Rochester, South St. Paul and finally settling in the Alexandria area where Warren was a bank president.

When the family lived in South St. Paul, Rose served as the hospital auxiliary president for Divine Redeemer. She was instrumental in raising funds for the hospital’s first ambulance. The effort included a two-night variety show complete with a producer and costumes from New York City. Rose had just one word to describe the feeling when they took delivery of the ambulance, “Awesome!” she recounted. “It was a great thing and they really appreciated it. It was so much fun, and everybody felt good.”

Rose and Warren’s move to Windmill Ponds was partially prompted by Rose’s two strokes in 2014. “I’m thankful that they didn’t affect my mind and my right hand,” Rose says. She’s also still bringing smiles to other people. “I make greeting cards, and I still can do it.”

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.

Build Trust

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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.