By Kerry Drager
Aging is an important part of life that in many ways is enjoyable. From retirement to a growing family, there are endless reasons to smile about becoming a senior, but growing older does come with some challenges.
Denise Rieland of Sauk Centre has identified the physical and emotional struggles that the elderly face and her compassion has led her on a journey to help ease their suffering.
“I have worked for hospice and home care for 19 years,” said Rieland. “I’ve experienced many changes in my field.”
Rieland’s journey began when she was a girl. Her mother worked in a hospital and Rieland would spend her days there as a volunteer. As a candy striper, her enthusiasm for helping the elderly grew. Following her passion into adulthood, she began her career in healthcare by working in a Melrose nursing home for over seven years. She has since become a part of CentraCare’s hospice and home care programs. When she is not at work, she continues her passion as a hospice volunteer.
Hospice and home care include all the personal care needs for the individual. If the individuals are at home and wish to remain that way, it is Rieland and her team that ensure that the clients are comfortable and that their home is safe for them.
“I take the time to sit and visit with people. To bring them a glass of water or to hold their hand. I love the clients, and every one of them is unique. It’s great to listen to their stories. Some people say that seniors can’t learn. Well, I say phooey on that. They can.”
A positive attitude and her faith in the abilities of her clients has made Rieland the perfect candidate for heading CentraCare’s Silver Sneakers and Silver and Fit programs. With her co-worker Janine Pohlmann, the Silver programs have become a success in helping seniors find the strength and confidence they need to get their bodies moving again.
“When the head of Physical Therapy asked if I’d take this on, I told him I didn’t know if I could do it,” Reiland said. “He said that if I could keep 12 people in the class then he’d be happy with it. I’m the type of person that if you say 12, then my goal is 20. Once we reached 20 then my goal was 30, and then it was 40. I had 40, and I didn’t know where to put all of them.”
Reiland believes that the success of the Silver programs is not only because it increases her clients’ physical capabilities and relieves pain, but it’s also a great opportunity for social interaction.
“A lot of the members have made friends. I have a sign now that says, ‘Welcome. May all who enter as guests, leave as friends.’”
From her time with hospice, Rieland understands the importance of friendship. It is during these last years of life that loved ones and friends begin to pass away. Understanding their loneliness, she has created an environment where seniors can mingle.
With the help of friends, family and her own creative inspiration, the Silver programs now include a social event after exercise once a month. Often educational as well as fun, these social gatherings can entail anything from a pontoon ride to a presentation about heart health and care.
These social events and the physical benefits of the programs has changed the lives of several area seniors. It has grown in size by word of mouth and those who have joined the program rarely leave.
“There is one gal whose husband always attended, and he was always trying to talk his wife into going. She finally started to come. Then her husband became sick and passed away, and she stopped coming. It took a while, but then she came back. We’ve had many people who have lost a spouse, and this program is helpful to them.”
Many lives have been changed for the better by Reiland’s efforts and dedication, making their lives brighter, healthier and happier.
Her knowledge, awareness and faith in them has provided seniors with the emotional and physical support they need to embrace their final years.
“It’s just a gift if you can help people on their journey. My goal is to make it so that they can leave this life peacefully. If you can help them reach that goal it makes you feel so good,” said Reiland.