Tag Archives: Vista Prairie Communities

A friend indeed

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Donna Medina (left in the photo) and her friend Marla are neighbors in the Memory Care Suites of Vista Prairie at River Heights in South St. Paul, MN. They enjoy having lunch together occasionally. For Donna, friendship has been a saving grace since she moved in last May, amid eight months of pandemic response.

A recent post-Christmas party was an example of the comfort and support residents and caregivers are getting from each other. The photo is from that party, where Donna and Marla are modeling their new pajamas, donated by the nearby Target store.

“It was very, very fun,” Donna remembers. “I was glad I went. Sometimes I stay in my room, but I did go. I enjoyed myself. The management is very nice. They gave gifts. I received a beautiful purse.”

With lower infection rates in Dakota County and the promise of the COVID-19 vaccine, due to be administered on Jan. 21, visitors should be readmitted at River Heights in the near future. Stay tuned for that information on our website. Residents also look forward to weather when they can enjoy the beautiful outdoor terrace at River Heights.

Donna got even more encouragement at that party – a cat as a new companion. The River Heights staff asked Donna to adopt the cat after her original owner, another friend of Donna’s, had recently passed away.

“I was asked if I would take her,” says Donna. “Her name is Bailey and she’s a lot of company for me. She jumped right up on my bed, so I thought – ‘Wow.’ Now she sleeps on my lap or she comes on my chest. She knows when I’m upset or crying and she’s right there with me. She’s just wonderful.”

While Bailey’s friendship is helping to make River Heights a joy-filled environment, it’s Ara, Franky and other staff members who Donna cites for their compassionate care.

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

A pioneer in our midst

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Foster Dunwiddie doesn’t need an elevator as a resident of Vista Prairie at Brentwood, our new community in Rice Lake, Wisconsin. Brentwood is built on one level. Foster knows a lot about elevators though, as a pioneering architect with a rich history in iconic public buildings, including the old Met Stadium in Bloomington, MN. It was the original home of the Minnesota Twins after they moved from Washington, DC. Foster recalled a big design challenge caused by a budget shortfall early on.

“The initial design had a shaft for an elevator, but we couldn’t afford the elevator,” Foster recalled in a 2018 video about his career. “Once we got a commitment from the Washington Senators that they were coming, funds loosened up a great deal.”

Now 95, Foster was educated at the University of Wisconsin as a civil engineer but an interest in sketching eventually drew him to the School of Architecture at the University of Minnesota. He later helped establish the firm of Miller Dunwiddie where he remained for most of his 50+ year career. He became best known for his groundbreaking work in accessibility as a member of the Architectural Barriers Committee of the Minnesota Society of Architects.

“I had broken both my heels in a construction accident,” Foster remembers. “I suddenly found myself confined to a wheelchair and facing the problems of those in a wheelchair.” He pointed out at that time, there wasn’t legislation requiring the accommodations we have today. “I was lobbying the State Legislature to revise the Minnesota Building Code to require handicapped parking spaces, accessible door entry-ways and restroom modifications for people in wheelchairs.”

Foster’s other key contribution was in historic preservation. He pioneered what he described as a “detective project” to ensure that the restoration of Ft. Snelling was historically accurate. He also designed restorations for the Minnesota State Capitol building in the mid 1980’s.

“We had to make sure the public spaces were accessible so that witnesses for hearings could get into the building,” Foster said. “I also restored the House and the Senate chambers to make them accessible to people with disabilities.”

Foster and his wife Shirley moved to Brentwood in 2011. Shirley passed away a year ago, a short time after she and Foster had moved into memory care. “They’ve been very responsible meeting my needs here,” Foster concludes. And about the food? “I belong to the clean-plate club, and I’ve been working overtime.”

The Brentwood community offers 28 one and two-bedroom apartments for seniors who value their independence but want options for personal care and supportive services. We also offer 19 memory care suites that provide a long-term option for seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.

Vote for Vista Prairie

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With more than nine years of appetizing service for Vista Prairie at Monarch Meadows, Chef Barry Ahl is the senior Culinary Manager among all his peers at our eight communities. While he’s not running for office, his involvement in the Mankato area has earned wide community support.

Among Monarch’s unique features, Chef Barry and Executive Director Andrea Rupe have a virtual culinary demonstration on the drawing board, where residents, family members and the public can get help in preparing favorite holiday dishes. They’re planning the first installment this month.

“I can show them how really basic and easy it is to make a traditional Thanksgiving meal, right down to the homemade cranberries and giblet gravy,” says Chef Barry. “You know, some people don’t even know how to dress a turkey.”

The Monarch dining room recently opened for residents to have their meals, spaced one person per table, after a summer where all meals were delivered to each apartment – to ensure healthy nutrition.

“We made sure that we were taking care of every resident, one by one, going into their apartment, making sure that they ate three meals a day and a snack.”

Now that the dining room is reopened, the residents are delighted to see more of each other.

“One lady come up to me and said – ‘This is the best meal I’ve had nine years.’ Everybody’s walking around and smiling so I’m kind of like Santa Claus, because every day I get to cook really good meals,” Barry reflects. “That puts a smile on their face. That’s what joy basically is — with a smile or getting a compliment or getting a wink.”

Can we count your vote for Vista Prairie at Monarch Meadows? Call 507-386-2451 to book a tour. 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.

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.