In the fourteenth episode of the ‘Visits from the Heart’ series, we continue our transition from learning how our residents are dealing with the pandemic and focus on their individual and unique life stories. Jim Thares, Founder and CEO for Primrose Retirement Communities, visits with Marion M., a resident at the Primrose Retirement Community in Aberdeen, South Dakota.

Jim starts the conversation off by mentioning how crisp the air has been lately, inferring that fall must be on the way. Marion agrees but concedes she prefers the weather when it’s a bit warmer. For Marion, the upcoming cooler weather marks a familiar change to what has been far from a usual Midwestern summer for her.

The journey of Marion moving into Primrose started with an open apartment and soon became a whirlwind of activity all ending with Marion having a new address, in a new town, in a new state. When it was all said and done, Marion admits she had to take a minute and reevaluate if she may have made the decision in haste. The logistics of a traditional move can be quite a feat, but add in the inconvenient restrictions due to the pandemic, made Marion’s move tricky at best. In fact, she hadn’t even stepped foot into Primrose or even seen her new apartment until the day she moved in. With her sister-in-law already a Primrose resident, Marion was familiar with Primrose and had thought about living there someday too. So, when her sister-in-law learned of an opening, the ball was set in motion. In her words, “It was all done through the computer.” Marion was introduced to all the Primrose offerings first through email, and later with phone calls and video chats. Marion’s two daughters, one in Boston and the other in Texas, we both very active in the process on the phone and online. Truthfully, they were in so much contact with the staff that Marion thinks her daughters knew the staff better than she did prior to moving in.

Since she moved in ‘sight unseen’, Jim inquired if Primrose was meeting her expectations. Marion confessed that it was not quite as anticipated. She knew the basics like daily meals would be available, but all of the activities were a pleasant surprise. Loneliness is a common concern for many people as they age in their homes, and Marion is grateful not to worry about that anymore. The assortment of daily activities keeps her busy socially and mentally. She most enjoys the devotionals and the clergy that are able to come visit since she hasn’t been able to attend church services in person. Keeping seniors active and engaged is part of the Primrose mission. She is also glad to be able to still do her own shopping if need but happily shares that the staff can do it for her if she chooses.  She isn’t shy to admit that being a little spoiled by the attention and care of the staff is something she is ready for in this chapter of her life.

Jim and Marion continue to share their German heritage through a discussion of favorite foods. Marion has not only enjoyed making German dishes over the years, she proudly shares that her daughters have learned to make them to carry on the tradition. While her mother wasn’t German, dishes such as strudel, knoephla soup, and kuchen are all meals her whole family loves. She doesn’t make strudel or knoephla soup any longer, but kuchen is one treat that she will probably be making again soon. Jim was quick to offer to ‘share’ a piece when she does make one.

Marion finishes the chat telling Jim about when her daughters helped her make the move to Primrose over the summer, they both expressed how they would no longer need to worry about their mother. Her daughters were able to experience firsthand how the staff at Primrose truly cares for the seniors that live there. After the whirlwind move this summer, Marion has come to realize how lucky she is to live at Primrose. Jim accredits the staff with having Midwest values of care and respect for each other that lend to the Primrose mission of happy, healthy living environments for our seniors.

Much as a proud parent would do, Jim concludes the visit by sharing with Marion that Primrose recently earned a 2020 Employee Approved award from Lincoln, Nebraska–based healthcare-intelligence firm NRC Health. The award recognizes senior-care organizations across the country for engaging and inspiring their employees. Jim boasts about how proud he is of all the Primrose staff, especially during these challenging times.