When Nina, 83, enrolled in Lifespark COMPLETETM in 2021, she wasn’t struggling with chronic health issues, she didn’t need in-home care, and she wasn’t interested in moving to a senior community. In fact, when Candice Pautzke, RN, Life Manager, first met her client, Nina told her she was doing fine.
But over time, as they got to know each other, Nina started sharing more about herself and what was missing in her life. “One day, she was showing me these beautiful quilts she’d made and telling me how much she used to love quilting,” Candice said. “When I asked her why she’d stopped, she said, ‘I don’t know… I just don’t feel like doing anything.’”
Although Nina was taking an antidepressant, Candice encouraged her to talk to her doctor about trying a different medication. “She’s now on Zoloft and that seems to be helping her mood,” Candice said. She also suggested that the next time Nina meets with her primary care doctor to have her Vitamin D level checked since low levels—common among Minnesotans—can negatively affect mood.
As Nina started to feel better, she told Candice she wanted to get more exercise, but her husband, Dennis, wasn’t interested in joining a fitness club and she didn’t want to go on her own. “We talked about how good it would be for her overall health and mood, so she decided to sign up without him and convinced a friend to join her,” Candice said. “They started going three times a week—and just a few weeks later, much to Nina’s surprise, Dennis joined, too!”
Regular exercise has been good for Nina’s mental and physical health, but she was still having back pain due to a condition called Kyphosis, or curvature of the spine, which was also causing some shortness of breath whenever she stood up straight. “We discussed physical therapy for several months, and finally, after some coaxing, she agreed to give it a try after the holidays,” Candice said.
Baking was another favorite activity Nina had given up. She told Candice how much she used to love baking cakes and cookies with her grandchildren when they were young. “She showed me a photo of the gingerbread houses they’d decorated with melted Lifesavers that made the windows look like stained glass,” Candice said. “She reminisced about staying up late on New Year’s Eve to put the little houses together and how she misses this time with her grandchildren.” But they’re teenagers now, Nina explained, and busy with their own lives.
With a little nudging from Candice, Nina said she’s going to have her grandchildren over to bake cookies for Christmas. She also started quilting again. “At a recent visit, she gave me these beautiful coasters and a patch pillow, and when I encouraged her to give them to her family, she said, ‘My family doesn’t want any more of my stuff, and it makes me happy to give them to you,’” Candice said. “I will cherish these gifts forever.”
Candice said that she always feels so welcomed when she comes to visit. “Dennis greets me, too, and often offers me a pastry, a sandwich, or even fried chicken,” she said, adding that she must look perpetually hungry. “I politely decline, but sometimes I’ll have coffee with them. They treat me like family.”
As for Nina, she says her energy has improved, and she’s even started making gingerbread again. “What I love about being a Life Manager is getting to know my clients and helping them get back to what brings them joy,” Candice said.