Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

I want you to know… March 27, 2020

I photographed my mom’s hands during a visit with her about a month ago. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

THE FIRST TIME I READ their messages on Facebook, I cried, an unexpected eruption of mixed emotions.

These are difficult days when separation from loved ones challenges all of us. Sure, we can tout technology. But what if you live in a senior living center—assisted living or a nursing home or a senior apartment—and you can’t directly connect via technology? Then what?

 

Downtown Belview, Minnesota, photographed in November 2019. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

I love what Parkview Senior Living in Belview, a small town in my native southwestern Minnesota, is doing to connect residents to loved ones. Parkview holds a special spot in my heart. My octogenarian mom lives there, where she is on hospice. I last saw her the weekend before the care center closed to visitors in an effort to protect residents during the COVID-19 crisis. Given her current health, I doubt Mom fully understands what’s happening in the world. And that’s OK. She’s lived through enough challenging days in her life-time.

 

This file photo shows the nursing home section of Parkview Senior Living. At the time I took this photo, the center was closed due to damage caused by a tornado which struck Belview in 2011. Thus the blue tarp on the roof. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2011.

 

But back to Parkview’s efforts to connect. On its Facebook page, this senior living center has posted photos of residents holding signs with messages for their loved ones. I recognize many of the people, having met or seen them while visiting Mom. Parkview is small. I’ve always appreciated the feels-like-family atmosphere. Mom and others living here are well cared for and loved. That comforts me during this time when I can’t visit. Or even call, because Mom can no longer communicate that way.

Kudos to the staff for photographing residents holding signs that begin with I want you to know…

The responses are both encouraging and difficult to read. Nearly every person shares how much they miss their loved ones. That’s to be expected.

I cried when I saw my mom’s photo and message. “I love and miss you all. Hope to see you when this is all over. I enjoy when we get together it doesn’t happen often enough.” And then I cried again as I scrolled through the photos and read the I want you to know…from other residents.

 

WAITING, HOPING…

Fern says, “…even though you look good through my window, I hope you will be able to come see me soon.”

“…Hope you remember me,” writes Grandma Bea.

And from John, who rolled his wheelchair into my mom’s room during my last visit, comes this. “When this clears up, come and see me when you can…maybe in June?!!”

 

HOW THEY’RE DOING

Most say they are doing OK, well, good. But not Barb. Her message reads: “Being given all the TLC of my awesome staff and family. I am doing ‘super fantastic.’” I love Barb’s upbeat attitude.

Andy also praises Parkview. “I’m doing good…the nurses are good and also the food.” But then he offers this advice. “Stay out til this is over.” Gotta appreciate that directive from a man who’s lived a few years.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Talbert isn’t thinking about himself. Instead, he asks, “Donald…how are the cats doing?

 

WHERE THEY’D RATHER BE

If Hazel had her way, she’d be outside. On the farm.

 

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo of crocuses.

 

And Beata, well, she’s hungry for lefse. This is a strong Norwegian community. And she’d like to be running outside picking crocuses. That made me laugh. In the midst of this global pandemic, these seniors are thinking about the simple joys in life. Maybe we could all learn something from them.

 

BECAUSE IT’S GOOD TO LAUGH

Humor, in my opinion, helps. Laura, from my hometown of Vesta, offers this message: “I miss your jokes, but not your needle pokes. I saw the Easter Bunny today. He looked to be healthy! He was wearing a mask, yet I think he will be ready to go on with Easter…” A little poetry. A little humor. And then this poignant ending: “We are home sick for you all!”

 

Grandview Valley Winery north of Belview. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2014.

 

Many residents are connecting with loved ones via phone. They are reading and solving word puzzles. And praying. And they are thinking about better days. Especially Judy, who shares this message: “I’m doing okay. Looking forward to going out for a meal and a glass of wine when this is over.”

Me, too, Judy. Me, too.

TELL ME: If you have a loved one in senior living, how are you staying connected during this global pandemic? I’d love to hear your stories.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

15 Responses to “I want you to know…”

  1. This is so wonderful to read and a credit to the tireless health care and support staff going above and beyond. I love this.

  2. Littlesundog Says:

    We are not on Facebook or any other social media, so it’s just the cell phone for both Forrest and me. Both of us have family out-of-state but we keep connected daily with calls or texts. We discovered last night that COVID-19 has finally hit our town of about 7K. Forrest was exposed at work this week, so he and many others from his work are on quarantine and working from home. I’m finally feeling a bit of anxiety about this.

    • Oh, Lori, I am so sorry about that exposure. I would feel the same. Anxious. How can you not when someone you love is directly affected. No one is immune, small town or big city or rural acreage.

      I’m not on Facebook either. But the Parkview FB page is public, so I can at least view it.

      In closing, I will add Forrest and you to my ever-growing prayer list. Take care, my friend. Forrest, too.

  3. I so needed this – thanks so much 🙂 Hope and pray . . . Simple joys and virtual love and hugs . . . a good meal with a drink (love that one!) . . . one day at a time . . . keep on keeping on . . . Be Safe and Take Care Everyone!!!

  4. Becky Spitzack Says:

    Hi….Read Psalm 23 together on phone!
    We talk a lot on phone, write letters, send care packages, connect via live live chat, signs on window, staff helps with a photo text message.
    Becky

  5. Almost Iowa Says:

    Julie and I spent much of yesterday and the day before sewing face masks for our grand-daughter and her workmates at a nursing home in Owatonna. They ran out of N95 masks and home-made ones are reusable (but not as good, just good enough).

    Everyone is pitching in.

  6. valeriebollinger Says:

    What a great gift the care center is giving it’s residents and their families.

  7. JanBeek Says:

    My sis is in a Senior Care facility. Of course, it is on “lock down” and I can’t visit her, but we talk on the phone. Thank you for this lovely post. I’m glad you go that picture of your mom’s hands. That’s priceless! ❤ Bee well!! ❤


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