Tag Archives: Vista Prairie Communities

The Right Stuff

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Monica Shelgren became the Director of Health Services (DOH) for Vista Prairie at Goldfinch Estates in Fairmont last February, one month before the coronavirus crises hit Minnesota. When Martin County erupted as a Minnesota hot spot for COVID-19 the Goldfinch staff demonstrated it had “the right stuff.” Monica applied 37 years of health care experience to guide the clinical response. During the first six-months of the crisis, Goldfinch has experienced only one positive COVID-19 test and that was in a staff member who had no symptoms.

“It’s a team effort here,” Monica says. “We also rely on the Vista Prairie support staff, especially Melissa, to provide current information from the Minnesota Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control.” She’s referring to Vista Prairie’s Organizational Director of Health Care Melissa Plachecki, who supports all the Vista Prairie communities. “She does a wonderful job and what we learn from her, we incorporate here,” Monica adds.

Goldfinch’s success in keeping residents safe comes with sacrifice. “My heart breaks for our residents and their families,” Monica reflects. “The inability to interact as we’re all accustomed to is overwhelming for the families. They understand the rules, but it doesn’t make it easy.” Thankfully, cases within the county have leveled off most recently and that trend will allow Goldfinch and other long-term care communities to welcome back family members who previously provided essential care to residents.

As one of the larger employers in Fairmont, with 88 full and part-time employees, Monica also acknowledges Goldfinch’s role in the community. “We come to work and go home, and it’s our responsibility to encourage our staff to remain educated and to follow the guidelines presented to all of us.”

Amid the stress, Monica says there’s still joy at Goldfinch, “I work with a wonderful group of people. Out of all the jobs I’ve had over my career, I feel the most rewarded with this one, and excited to come to work every day.” Monica specifically acknowledges the Goldfinch nursing staff, including three registered nurses and two licensed practical nurses.

“Being a native of Fairmont, I was familiar with Goldfinch Estates at a high level,” Monica explains. “It was highly recommended, and I was thrilled to take advantage of the opportunity.” The community offers 92 one and two-bedroom apartments for seniors who want access to supportive services. We also offer 41 memory care suites that provide a long-term option for seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.

Equine engagement

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These hands have found harmony with many horses over a lifetime of 91 years. They belong to Truman, affectionally known as TD, a memory care resident of Vista Prairie at River Heights in South St. Paul, MN. Ara Schmidt developed a strong attachment with TD while she was a resident assistant in the memory care unit.

“I love all our memory care residents,” Ara explains. “But there was something about TD that just draws you in, especially when he starts talking about horses.”

In her first months at River Heights Ara recounts TD’s reaction when she showed him photos of horses. His family filled in the details that had escaped his memory. TD raised horses for many years, but was especially attached to one named Guy. In his apartment TD keeps a memory book full of photos and stories about “Guy the Wonder Horse.” TD called Guy his best friend for 32 years.

When River Heights promoted Ara to the activities assistant position, she soon hatched a plan sure to delight TD and all the residents. “I tapped my social media network for anybody who knew a source for equine therapy, using horses to awaken the senses,” Ara recounts. “Within a couple days I had two providers lined up.”

On August 5, Angie Vizenor was the first to roll up with a horse trailer transporting Magic and Manny, also pictured here. It was indeed a magical time, and only the latest example of River Heights’ imaginative efforts this summer to prevent isolation and keep residents engaged.

“We hope to make these visits an annual warm weather highlight,” says Ara. “The horse providers got as much joy out of the encounters as our residents did.”

In addition to its 16 memory care suites, River Heights offers assisted living in 44 apartments. Want to learn more about River Heights? Call Danielle at 651-326-6501. She would be happy to introduce you virtually to the whole dedicated staff, especially Ara.

Antidote for isolation

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Jeffrey Lauck’s title may be activity assistant but when he’s escorting Jean and other Vista Prairie at Copperleaf residents on their new Trishaw, he’s a pilot. And there will be many such rides to come as our Willmar, MN community enjoys its latest antidote for isolation.

“I love it!” Jean exclaims after the ride. “Going on this bike makes me feel so good.”

When the Trishaw arrived from its manufacturer in Copenhagen on June 23, it could not have been more welcome. The arrival culminated a $10,000 drive, with major funding provided by Willmar’s Vision 2040 organization, the United Way of West Central Minnesota, the Willmar Area Community Foundation and generous individual donors.

“Our residents are simply enjoying the great outdoors,” says Copperleaf Executive Director Jennie Marcus, who led the fundraising effort. “Appreciating nature, watching the frisbee golfers, people fishing, pelicans hunting fish, wildflower gardens, admiring the golf course and waiting for golfers to shoot a hole in one!”

With Copperleaf’s location near Robbins Island Park the opportunities will be limitless.

“The first time I saw the Trishaw bike, I thought here we go, that looks like fun,” recounts Evelyn, another resident. That’s high praise coming from a woman who has enjoyed a lifetime of powder puff racing on her snowmobile and still rides occasionally on a Harley Davidson motorcycle.

Evelyn went on to say, “Before COVID-19 I looked forward to taking the Copperleaf bus and going out for my groceries. That outing helped me feel more normal as far as being part of society. For me this bike has helped me feel free again.”

Getting ready to take residents for a Trishaw trip, requires two training sessions to be certified as a pilot. Most of that training is led by one of Copperleaf’s Registered Nurses, Ginna Calvin, an avid bike rider who inspired the idea for the community to obtain its own Trishaw.

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.

Gifts for Very Special People

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This Vista Prairie at River Heights patio in South St. Paul is a peaceful oasis outside our Memory Care services there. Memory Care is available in our Minnesota communities in Fairmont, Redwood Falls and Willmar as well, and in Sheldon, Iowa.

Lynn Buckley is the Memory Care and Care Suites Manager for Vista Prairie at Garnette Gardens in Redwood Falls, and an expert in this field. During this holiday season, Lynn offers some helpful gift advice to you, for people on your list who have dementia.

The first and most important tip is to know what stage of the process your loved one is in. Your care professional can easily answer this question for you. Buying a gift for a loved one in the early stages of dementia can be very different from buying a gift for someone in the late stages. These suggestions are grouped according to the stages of dementia:

Early Stage:

  • Activity books, like crossword puzzles or strategy books, adult color books, color pencils
  • DVD’s of classic movies, TV shows or music that your loved one likes
  • A photo album or a family event calendar with photos of family members
  • A memory phone where photos and phone numbers of loved ones can be stored
  • Digital photo frame
  • A clock with digital time, date and day
  • Personalized video of family member and friends
  • Transportation gift cards
  • Familiar books
  • Box of cards with stamped envelopes
  • Transfer old family videos, photos and slides onto a digital recording
  • Gift card for Meals on Wheels or at a local senior dining opportunity
  • Favorite sports team memorabilia

These items will help stimulate your loved one to reminisce.

Middle Stage:

  • Automatic night lights that turn on and off with movement
  • A clock with digital time, date and day
  • An automatic pill dispenser if your loved one resides in their home
  • Simple craft items that will spark your loved one to reminisce
  • Scented lotions and bath soaps
  • Larger print books
  • A bird feeder

Late Stage:

  • Slippers
  • Weighted lap blanket
  • Fidget toys
  • Stuffed animal
  • Warm soft lap blanket

Finally — the best gift for all stages is your time!

The primary focus of our Memory Care services in Minnesota and Iowa is to provide an attentive and caring environment for seniors dealing with Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia. Our program is full of activities that help relieve the anxiety, confusion and frustration that impact residents’ lives.

Pamela Rubis is Leading Safe Care in Fairmont

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Vista Prairie Communities (VPC) has named Pamela Rubis as the Executive Director of its Goldfinch Estates Senior Living Community in Fairmont. She is responsible for all operations, contact with residents, staff and the community — in short, assuring Safe Care at Goldfinch Estates.

A veteran human service executive, Pamela brings 20 years of experience in leadership and marketing positions with senior care, a nursing home and homes for people with developmental disabilities. Her experience includes service in care communities in Adrian, Hutchinson, Lakefield, Luverne and Worthington, Minnesota. She assumes leadership of VPC’s largest community, with 92 one and two bedroom assisted living apartments and 41 memory care suites.

“We welcome Pamela to the Vista Prairie family of senior living communities,” said VPC Chief Operating Officer Kim Webster. “Pamela is known for her high quality care and her excellent communication, customer relations and interpersonal skills.”

Pamela obtained her Human Services certificate from Rochester Technical & Community College in Rochester and completed additional training in Project Management from the United States Geological Survey’s Data Center for Earth Resources Observation & Science in Sioux Falls, SD.