Questions about Senior Living? We Can Help.

Sifting through information about living options for older adults can be overwhelming. 

What kind of housing is there? Is my mom ready for assisted living? How much will it cost? What services will I need as I age? Will Medicare pay for anything? Do I have enough financial resources to live in a senior community?  How long can I live comfortably in my current home?

Mary O’Brien wants to take the fear and confusion out of those questions.

Mary is a senior living advisor at Eventide Senior Living Communities, which offers a continuum of care from home services to hospice. Her role, new to the organization, is to serve as a first-stop resource for families and individuals who have questions about senior living options, payment and more.

“Lots of times people don’t even know where to start,” she says. “I’m here to give validity to every question somebody has. Even if you have no idea what to ask, you can call me.”

As a faith-based nonprofit, Eventide strives to meet the needs of the Minnesota and North Dakota communities it serves. Helping families navigate options for aging adults is just one more way it lives out its mission to empower older adults and families to thrive.

Mary sees her role as twofold: being an advocate for families and serving as a resource for the public. She believes strongly in the value of senior living arrangements that nurture relationships and security. That conviction comes from her own experience.

She has a deep relationship with her own grandparents, often Skyping with them three times a week. Her mother passed away when she was young, and her grandparents stepped in to help raise her. Some of her fondest memories include going to church on Sunday and then having a big family dinner at her grandparents’ home.

“I want every person who is aging to have connections like that, whether they are residents at Eventide or somewhere else,” she says. “Everyone deserves to be valued throughout their entire lives.”

Accompanying families as they gather information and sort through options is a privilege, she says.

Mary has talked with Eventide residents, asking what it was like to move into a senior living community. Those conversations help her to guide others as they seek the right care and amenities for themselves or their loved ones.

“It’s really about helping everybody find their community, that warm, home-like setting where they feel safe, encouraged and engaged,” Mary says. “If I can help take away some of the stress as families make those decisions, I’ll have done my job.”

If you have any questions about senior living or services, contact Mary at 218-291-2200 or

Eventide’s Annual Benefit Auction is October 20!

Benefit Auction and Wine Tasting

October 20, 2017 at 6 p.m.

Avalon Event Center,  2525 9th Ave S, Fargo

Please join us for an evening of fine wine, a silent auction, and entertainment by C. Willi Myles.

All proceeds benefit the residents of Eventide.

NEW THIS YEAR – Mobile Bidding! Bring your smart device to make bidding easy! If you don’t have one, don’t worry! Bidding stations will be available.

Get your tickets here!

Why Volunteer? It’s Good for You and Others!

When it comes to volunteering, it’s hard to know who benefits more: the person donating the time or those who are on the receiving end.

After all, research has proven that volunteering provides mental and physical health benefits for those doing the helping. The Corporation for National and Community Volunteering has found that people who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who don’t volunteer at all.

This is good news for Eventide Senior Living Communities, where more than 400 people volunteer each year.

“Volunteers are a huge asset to us,” says Kaley Harms, Director of Life Enrichment. “They bring an energy to our facilities that you can’t match.”

Volunteers serve in a variety of ways: one-one visits with residents, leading worship services, assisting with activities, gardening and more. Regardless of the role, volunteers provide a connection to the outside community, Harms says. That’s especially important for seniors who can’t easily leave their residence.

“We find that most of our residents improve their quality of life when they move here,” Harms says. “They socialize more, and volunteers are a part of that.”

Volunteers can devote a few hours each week, a few hours each month or can be available on an “as needed” basis. They share coffee and conversation or take a walk outside. Some volunteers help residents with computers and other technology.

Other opportunities include:

  • assisting with activities and special events
  • gardening
  • escorting residents to salon and wellness center
  • assisting in the office
  • performing special music
  • leading educational programs
  • accompanying to worship services
  • bringing pets to visit

Students as young as 11 can volunteer at Eventide. These junior volunteers often help by transporting residents from their room to an activity area or serving coffee. Church confirmation groups, school groups and youth organizations can work with Eventide to find an appropriate time and activity where lots of students can volunteer.

The senior living community also works closely with the area’s colleges. Some courses and programs require students to volunteer, Harms says. This requirement helps to bridge a generation gap and encourages seniors to learn from younger generations, and younger generations to learn from seniors.

Unless an individual is strongly committed to volunteering in a certain way, Harms encourages new volunteers to start by being matched to a resident. Regular one-on-one visits can be scheduled at any time, making it a flexible option. Once a volunteer is comfortable in the setting, he or she can choose something else based on interest or skill.

“The important thing is to know you’re making a difference in the lives of others. Our residents look forward to volunteers coming. They appreciate the connection,” Harms says. “And most of our volunteers say that they get a lot more than they give.”

To volunteer at Eventide, contact Kaley Harms at or (218) 291-2258. Or you can sign up online at:

Long-Distance Caregiving: 4 Ways to Stay in Touch from a Distance

Long-Distance Caregiving: 4 Ways to Stay in Touch from a Distance
Long-distance caregiving comes with a unique set of challenges, but it’s important for families to stay connected – no matter how many miles separate them. With technology and consistent communication, it’s possible to be intimately involved in your loved one’s care when he or she moves to assisted living or needs skilled nursing care.
“It’s really important for our population that families stay involved,” says Sarah Sjaaheim, Director of Social Services and Admissions at Eventide Senior Living Communities. “Nobody has to feel excluded because of distance.”
The National Institute on Aging defines a long-distance caregiver as anyone who lives an hour or more away from the person who needs assistance. These caregivers can take on any number of caregiving roles ranging from money management to clarifying insurance benefits to arranging care in a senior living community.

Here are some tips and tools for staying involved with your loved one’s care no matter where you live.

Even residents needing skilled nursing care are more tech savvy than ever, Sjaaheim says. Many residents are comfortable using smartphones and tablets, allowing families to keep in touch via video chat services like Facetime or Skype.

Family members might text back and forth throughout the day. These tools are valuable whether you live across town or across the country.
Technology also plays an important role when family members want to be part of healthcare decisions. Electronic medical records mean that, in some cases, family members can access test results and physician notes even before Eventide staff receive them, Sjaaheim says.

Even with technology available, families who want to stay close to loved ones shouldn’t dismiss the phone. Some families choose a regular time to call: for example, 7 each evening or 4 p.m. on Sundays. If staff know about this routine, they can help to make sure your loved one is available for the call, Sjaaheim says. If dementia has taken away a loved one’s ability to recognize family members by face, he or she may still be able to recognize and find comfort in familiar voices.

“If someone has regressed and is seeking you as a child or young adult, you won’t look familiar but your voice will be,” Sjaaheim says. Even a one-sided conversation can bring comfort to someone with memory loss.
The phone is also a great way to stay involved with care and daily activities. At Eventide, conference calls are a common way to keep out-of-state family members in the loop during quarterly care conferences. Everyone who wants to be involved can get up-to-date information about a relative’s health, progress and interest in activities. In between conferences, family members are encouraged to call the nursing station for information. These regular connections build trust between staff and family members, Sjaaheim says. It makes it easier to converse when a health crisis or decline happens.
Everybody loves to get mail. The message doesn’t need to be long; the touch point is what matters. Send a postcard from a place that your loved one once visited. Send a card with a sentence of two about something happening in your life. You could even mail a photo book or calendar filled with images from your loved one’s past. These photos can be of family members or past events.
“Anything that prompts dialogue or conversation is helpful,” Sjaaheim says. “Family is vital for bridging gaps and helping staff to understand what is important to an individual.”
In-Person Visits
Even with other options available, be sure to schedule in-person visits and to set priorities for those times. For example, do you want to accompany your mom to a medical appointment? Family members who don’t see a loved one regularly can provide helpful observations on how a loved one is adjusting and progressing. Sometimes it takes someone from out of town to notice decline, Sjaaheim says.

While much of the visit may be focused on caregiving duties, don’t forget to spend time relaxing and enjoying each others’ company. Above all, don’t let guilt for not being there every day get in the way of enjoying time with your loved one.
“If phone is the best we can do, you can still play a valuable role,” Sjaaheim says. “The important thing is that you stay involved. Time goes so quickly. Don’t waste it on guilt.”

Music Improves Resident Quality of Life

For music therapist Danielle Steffes, some of the most powerful tools are a guitar, rhythmic instruments and the human voice.
Shortly before lunch on a mid-May Monday, she gently quizzes a handful of residents at Eventide’s Moorhead campus who participate in one of her weekly music groups.

“Mothers are often known for giving us words of wisdom. Can you help finish these phrases?” she asks.

“The early bird …”

“… gets the worm,” says one woman.

“Actions speak louder …”

“… than words,” several interject.

Steffes walks around and hands out jingle bells, tambourines and shakers as she introduces the next musical activity. It is based on a song with its own words of wisdom: “Accentuate the Positive.”

“That’s a good one,” says one resident as group members begin to shake their instruments and sing along to a recording by Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters.

The half hour session looks like a simple sing-a-long, but, in actuality, the music disguises therapy at work. The residents in long-term care work on range of motion as they shake instruments. Cognitive skills are strengthened as they remember song lyrics and common phrases. And it’s all done as they socialize and build community through song.

“Music is so motivating,” Steffes says. “I believe that it has the power to create instant change.”

Steffes is a board-certified and licensed music therapist who offers services to groups and individuals at all three
Eventide locations. The fulltime staff member designs activities that use music to address physical, emotional, cognitive and social needs.
For some residents, that means socializing as a member of Eventones, a choir that meets weekly. For other residents, that means a one-on-one session with Steffes who will play guitar chords to reduce anxiety. She’ll even create a personalized playlist for residents who may use music as an incentive to complete tasks.

“This gives Eventide residents something that a lot of facilities don’t offer,” she says.
Music is increasingly used to help seniors increase or maintain their level of physical, mental and social-emotional functioning, according to the American Music Therapy Association. Research shows that the intentional incorporation of music in a therapeutic setting can help a person maintain a quality of life. Steffes strives to identify the strengths and gifts of Eventide’s residents and enhance them. She also tries to match musical genres and time periods to the residents’ interests.

“I want them to be empowered,” she says. “What instruments do they want to play? What kind of songs do they want to sing or listen to? Everyone can participate no matter what abilities they’ve lost.”

One of her favorite stories is about a resident with anxiety who hollered at inappropriate times. He also tapped his foot vigorously. Steffes entered his room and started strumming guitar chords to the rhythm of his foot-tapping. Gradually, she was able to slow down the tapping and soothe the resident.

“He was more comfortable. And when residents are calmer and more comfortable, it’s also a safer environment for nurses, CNAs and other staff,” she says. “Music is powerful.”

Music also challenges residents and give them an opportunity to process their experiences. Steffes asked one of her groups to rewrite lyrics to the tune of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues.” The title of the new song? “Restless Leg Syndrome Blues.”

At the weekly gathering in the long-term care unit at the Moorhead campus, Steffes’ group ranges from six to a dozen residents.

They open with “Hail, Hail, the Gang’s All Here,” and they all are, singing and quietly clapping along.

Eventidings Newsletter | Spring 2017

Our Spring 2017 newsletter is now available! In it you’ll find:

  • How our Music Therapist is improving resident quality of life through music
  • Your Gifts in Action – Find out what the Eventide Foundation has been up to
  • Leaders in Living – Information about our upcoming Annual Community Education Series

Staying Connected with a Loved One Who Has Dementia

Maintaining a relationship with someone who has dementia or Alzheimer’s disease can be challenging.

Not only do these illnesses rob a person of memory, but they eventually impair a person’s ability to understand and speak words. Conversation and visits can become difficult.

But your loved one needs regular contact with family and friends.

“People with dementia or Alzheimer’s can pick up on how you make them feel,” says Stephanie Doppler, resident care manager at Eventide Sheyenne Crossings in West Fargo, N.D. “Even if they don’t remember your name or who you are, you can still leave them with a positive, good feeling.”

As the relationship changes, there are some important ways to stay connected with those who have dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Tips for Interaction

  1. Listen for clues as to where a loved one’s reality is. As these diseases progress, mom or dad’s memory regresses. They might believe that they are in their 40s, working on the railroad, or in their 20s, raising small children. “Ask them to tell you what’s happening,” Doppler says. Help them reminisce rather than bring them back to the present.
  2. Be agreeable and find ways to offer comfort and reassurance. Don’t argue with your grandmother when she calls you the wrong name or says she doesn’t recognize you. Just be there as a friendly and comforting presence.
  3. Share musical experiences. Music memories do not fade as an individual’s disease progresses, Doppler says. Sing hymns together. Encourage your dad to play piano, if that’s something he’s done in the past. Listen to favorite songs. “Music is an important, useful tool,” Doppler says.
  4. Share memories. If your loved one no longer uses words to communicate, feed them memories. Tell your mom how much you enjoyed the chocolate chip cookies she used to bake or how much you enjoyed your dad’s woodworking projects. Find old photos and look at them together. Bring a quilt your grandma made and talk about it as she holds it. Read a short story or poem aloud. If faith was important to your loved one, pray together.
  5. Bring your kids or pets. If your loved one raised children or loved animals, bring small children or a well-behaved pet to the visit.
  6. Promote touch. Even if verbal communication is gone, human contact can speak volumes. Gently rub your mom’s hand or shoulders. Hold your grandpa’s hand. Be sure to read their signals so you can stop if they start getting agitated or upset.
  7. Find an activity for success. Search for activities that your loved one can still do. Giving them a purpose is important. Sweeping, setting the table, even blowing bubbles can provide a sense of accomplishment and value.

Staying Connected Long-Distance

If you don’t live close enough for regular in-person visits, staying in touch with a loved one with dementia can be even more difficult. Here are some ways to stay connected:

  • If a phone conversation is no longer possible, send cards or short notes. Everybody likes to receive mail. It’s another way of cultivating that feeling of closeness and comfort, that understanding that someone cares.
  • Check in regularly with staff to stay up-to-date on your mom’s health and well-being. This should eliminate any surprises when you do visit.
  • When you visit, try to not have certain expectations in mind. It can be difficult to see in-person how your loved one’s disease has progressed. Stay positive and accept your dad where he is at.

Above all, recognize that while the relationship has changed, maintaining connections with someone who has dementia is valuable.

The Importance of Respite Care

Keeping an elderly loved one in their home as long as possible is desirable, but it also can be an exhausting labor of love for family caregivers.

If your loved one needs 24-hour support, it can be challenging to find time for a vacation, a doctor’s appointment or even a trip to the grocery store. Burnout, exhaustion and frustration can quickly settle in.

Respite care can help to alleviate some of the physical and mental demands of caregiving.

“Taking care of a loved one is important,” says Genn Bervig, director of admissions and social services at Eventide. “It’s also important to take care of yourself if you’re the caregiver. That’s the best way you can continue to provide care for your loved one.”

Bervig regularly receives calls from family members looking for assistance.

“I’ve heard from caregivers who need surgery themselves and they’re wondering: ‘who’s going to take care of my loved one while I’m recuperating?’” she says.

Eventide doesn’t provide respite services for the general public. It does provide respite services for hospice patients through Hospice of the Red River Valley.

But there are formal and informal, in-home and out-of-home respite options available.

Ideally, caregivers can find another family member or a friend who can step in for a short period of time, whether it’s an hour or two each day or for a full week of vacation. This may be a good option if the senior doesn’t need special medical care but needs to have somebody around.

When a family member or friend isn’t an option:

· Ask a parish nurse for ideas. If your loved one is a member of a church or faith community, there may be a volunteer who could stop by for a couple hours each week.

· Search for a respite service. If you are looking in Cass County (North Dakota) or Clay County (Minnesota), visit This website provides a list of area service providers who provide day or overnight relief care for seniors needing supervision.

· Consider adult day care. Again, provides a list of options. An adult day care center provides meals, socialization, games and educational activities. Caregivers then have the freedom to work or take care of other household needs during the day.

Paying for respite care can be difficult. Insurance may cover if the care providers are licensed medical professionals. Long-term care policies may pay for some services. Some states provide Medicaid waivers to offset costs. Some state agencies have funds set aside to help in certain cases.

You can find information on respite care funding in North Dakota here.

You can find information on respite care funding in Minnesota here.

The important thing is to recognize that family caregivers need sufficient and regular amounts of time away. It’s not only okay, it’s healthy to take a break.

Moving Day: Tips for What to Bring

Moving into a new home always comes with some stress. That stress may be magnified once you’ve decided to move yourself or a loved one into a facility where they can receive more assistance and care.

That said, moving into an assisted living or long-term care facility doesn’t mean giving up the comforts of home. But the move likely will require you to make some decisions as you relocate into a different, and possibly, smaller space.

“It’s a transition, just like any move is,” says Sarah Sjaaheim, director of social services and admissions at Eventide Fargo. “Even if everyone is positive and excited about the move, there will be an adjustment.”

She encourages residents moving into assisted living or a long-term care facility to take their time in determining what they want to bring with them.

“Decisions don’t need to be made overnight,” she says. “You can live in the space for a while and make decisions from there.”

Moving into Assisted Living

Eventide’s assisted living residences are unfurnished apartments, meaning new residents bring their own furniture, furnishings and personal items.

Space for those items depends on the square footage and layout of each apartment. (There are one-, two- and three-bedroom units plus 14 different floor plans).

Before you move into assisted living, consider:

  • If you or your loved one uses a scooter or walker, make sure that there is enough space to store it and to maneuver around the apartment. You may have to limit furniture to make sure there are clear pathways.
  • Some bedrooms may accommodate queen- and king-sized beds while others are better suited for a full-sized one. If you’re not sure, ask the facility. If you want a dresser in the bedroom, ask if there will be room for it.
  • Bring your favorite rocking chair or recliner. If you prefer to use an electric lift chair, be sure you know how to use it safely.
  • Bring small tables, decorations and blankets to make it feel like your space.
  • Area rugs may make an apartment more homey, but they can also be a tripping hazard. Consider leaving these behind. If you’re determined to bring one, make sure it lays flat and the edges are taped down.
  • Take into consideration space needed for medical equipment. Be sure that oxygen tubing is secured or placed where it isn’t a tripping hazard.
  • Ask yourself what services will I (or my parent) need in six months? Planning for these needs when you first move in can make things easier down the road.

Moving into Long-Term Care

Tougher decisions need to be made when you or a loved one move into a long-term care community. The rooms are smaller and more space is needed for caregivers and medical equipment.

Everything in these rooms is provided except clothing and decorations, but there are still ample opportunities to personalize the space.

“We encourage our residents to get settled and then decide what they want to bring,” Sjaaheim says. “The only restriction is that staff need to be able to maneuver safely around the bed and chairs.”

Some items that can help you or your loved one feel more at home :

  • While toiletries are provided in long-term care, some residents prefer to bring their own.
  • A CD player or small radio.
  • Clothing.
  • Photos of family, friends or treasured memories.
  • Plants.
  • A Chair. Recliners are provided in Eventide’s rooms, but some residents prefer to use their own.
  • Items that reflect one’s hobbies or interests. Residents often decorate their doors with flowers or sports memorabilia so they can easily identify their room. One resident displayed a model ship outside his room.

“We encourage residents to bring something that says, ‘This is my spot. This is just for me,’” Sjaaheim says.