Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, November 23, 1998

Coordinator aims to help seniors keep independence

By LUIS E. PUGA

Sharon Pingree was the new service coordinator at St. Mary's Apartments. Now she's the new service coordinator at Linden Wood Apartments.

The name change is simply to avoid confusion with St. Mary's Care Center and, in a way, to assert the overriding premise of Linden Wood: independence.

As Pingree sees it, Linden Wood provides just that for its residents.

Asked why that is so important, she replied: "Do you want to give up your independence? It's just as important to them to not have to go to a nursing home."

While the name change separates the home and the apartments, the differences are more than skin deep.

For instance, there are no nurses at Linden Wood. Okay, Pingree is a retired nurse, but her job is not to provide care. Hers is more of an advocacy and marketing position.

While nursing homes provide care, Pingree insists that Linden Wood provides help to be independent.

While that may sound contradictory, Pingree points out that the help is needed.

"Primarily because a lot of seniors don't know how or don't want to be their own advocates for things that they need," she says. As service coordinator, she is their liaison and mediates communication.

Whether that is with their families, their doctors, the pharmacist, or Meals on Wheels. It also means arranging events and occasions for them, and, of course, marketing to potential tenants.

However, Pingree does not help if she is not asked to. Residents maintain their own medicine if they can or arrange their own transportation if they can. It's up to them and Pingree is "just helping them to live more independently."

When asked what other issues are important for the elderly, Pingree answered "dignity . . . and being treated like human beings with a lot to offer."

She said they can teach us a great deal if we take the time to listen. She encourages interaction with the community and sees the benefits for both the residents and those who interact with them.

Of programs, she would like to see more education for residents on money management, health care issues, and even avoiding scams.

She was surprised to find out that "scamming" the elderly is a $4 billion industry. "I think that's atrocious," she said.

Interaction is another key issue, especially between residents. While she admits that it's very hard to keep up with most of the activities the residents do, isolation is sometimes an issue.

"It's awfully easy to get isolated in your apartment," she said. Pingree would like to see more groups form, particularly for the male tenants.

For Pingree, Winsted is a great fit. She describes the city as having everything she needs, but unlike most people, she's not interested in its proximity to the Twin Cities. She does most of her shopping here or in Hutchinson.

As for the position, she describes it as just up her alley. While she admits it's mostly a marketing position, she would like to enhance the advocacy portion in time.

Her previous experience with the elderly was addictive, even though she admits she was scared at first. Her new job involves more communication than health care, and only when she's asked.


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