June 1, 2007

Mary Raisanen of Cokato Home Health wins Minnesota caregiver award

By Roz Kohls
Staff Writer

Mary Raisanen of Dassel received the Minnesota Caregiver of the Year award Tuesday at Cokato Manor in Cokato.

The Cokato area’s home care agency is relatively small, but it’s no small achievement for an employee of Cokato Charitable Trust to get this statewide award, said Neil Johnson, executive director of the Minnesota Home Care Association. Johnson presented the award, now in its third year, to Raisanen.

Raisanen was supposed to have received the award May 2, before 300 people at the home care association’s annual meeting in Rochester. She had finals at Ridgewater College, though, so Johnson brought the award to her in Cokato.

Nancy Deiter, home health director of nursing, told how Raisanen was selected for the honor. Deiter had met Raisanen years before, when Raisanen first started working for Cokato Charitable Trust, she said.

Raisanen was a caregiver then for a 1-year-old child with cystic fibrosis. Even though the treatment people get with cystic fibrosis can be unpleasant, the little girl was obviously enjoying being with Raisanen, Deiter said.

That image of the little girl with Raisanen stayed with Deiter. Later, when Raisanen came to apply for a job as a home health aide, Deiter hired her on the spot, before Raisanen even had a chance to fill out an application form, Deiter said.

In addition, one of Raisanen’s clients was diagnosed with leukemia at the same time as Raisanen’s mother was diagnosed with cancer, Johnson related. Even though Raisanen was grieving for her mother, she never missed a beat in caring for the leukemia patient, he said.

When it came time to nominate someone for the award, Raisanen immediately came to mind, Deiter said.

After reviewing the supporting statements from clients, nurses, and co-workers, the judges asked Deiter where she found such a caring, compassionate, competent caregiver.

“Mary sort of found us,” Deiter responded.

Raisanen said she has about 10 clients who she visits regularly. She checks their vital signs, helps them with their showers, or their exercises and physical therapy; “the basics to keep them at home,” she said.

More importantly, she visits with them. Without regular visits, they can feel isolated, she said.

Raisanen also worked for Cokato Manor as a nurse’s aide in 1993.

Raisanen thinks of all her clients as unique, and enjoyable in their own way, Raisanen said.

Raisanen recently completed a massage therapy course at college. She also works part time at Backyard Reflections of Dassel.

She is married to Lars Raisanen, and lives north of Dassel.

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