Tag Archives: Vista Prairie Communities

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.

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.

Passion, Purpose and Flexibility

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Shirley’s long-time passion was downhill skiing. She’s standing next to a framed collection of patches from all the mountains where she and Marvin skied during much of their 65- year marriage. Marv passed away a few months after they moved into Vista Prairie at Goldfinch Estates in Fairmont, MN. Now 90, Shirley’s fellow Goldfinch residents became her family, along with two children, four grand-kinds and five great grand-children, one of whom she recently met for the first time.

While childrearing and skiing were among Shirley’s passions, her lifelong purpose was “helping.” Her career in nursing evolved to leadership and administration in Estherville, Iowa, where she started the School of Nursing at Iowa Lakes Community College.

“Then they moved the school to Emmetsburg,” Shirley recounts. “That made the driving too much for me so they asked if I would be director of nursing at Holy Family Hospital, which I did for a long time.”

Shirley’s career flexibility set up her third chapter in nursing after she and Marv moved to Fairmont. She directed services at a half-way house and an outpatient center treating people with chemical dependency. She served her final nursing role for people who were incarcerated in the Martin County jail, retiring when she was 77. 

As we enter the 21st month of this pandemic, Shirley still has the mind of a nurse. She laments that not as many people are vaccinated as should be. “I think the messages are mixed,” she says. “I think the science is good but then people begin to go out on their own. ‘The government isn’t going to tell me what to do.’ Well, they tell you; you have to wear a seatbelt. They tell you; you can’t drive more than so many miles an hour. What’s the big deal?”

Shirley skied until she was 77. “Skiing is my claim to fame,” she sums up. She and Marv skied together all over the world, much of it after Marv lost one of his legs to cancer. “They told him when they amputated that he only had a 20 percent chance of living,” Shirley remembers. “And he lived 30 years.”

The Goldfinch Estates community offers 92 one and two-bedroom apartments, like Shirley’s, 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.

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.