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GENERATIONS Special supplement to the Thursday, February 20th Wadena Pioneer-Journal and Perham Focus

SOLDIER, BAKER, FISHERMAN Perham man Ted Wenner looks back on a life well lived

ALSO INSIDE: - Have you heard what's new in hearing aids? - Tips for talking about end-of-life wishes - Keeping better tabs on assisted-living care



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A LIFE WELL LIVED Perham man Ted Wenner recalls his years as a baker, soldier, family man and fisherman

RosaLin Alcoser / Generations

Ted Wenner and his wife, Doris, have been married for over 55 years.


PAGE 4 By RosaLin Alcoser For Generations lot of Perham folks have fond recollections of the old Perham Bakery. The bakery stood where Harmonious Architecture now stands, on Main Street downtown. It closed in 2013, but for decades prior to that, it was beloved for its sweet selection of fresh-baked goodies, including cookies, breads, cakes, and the best donuts for miles around. Perhaps no one has more fond memories of the bakery than Ted Wenner, who owned it for 27 years. He bought the business in 1976, after having already worked there for several years. He sold the business in 2002 to retire. “It was 2 o’clock in the morning (wake-up time) for 33 years,” Wenner, now 77, said of his working life. “Never missed one day of work in 33 years. Even when my daughters got married and when my mother died — I still went in that morning.” Wenner lived near the bakery, and would walk to work every morning, even in the winter. On especially cold mornings, Perham police officers would stop by and pick him up, he said, a gesture he really appreciated on those frigid days. The officers knew Wenner well, since they, “used to come in a lot in the morning, early, for coffee and donuts.” He also worked with the local police over the years as a victim of crime, as the bakery was broken into three times. It was a good business and it made a living, he said.


FEBRUARY 20, 2020

Never missed one day of work in 33 years. -TED WENNER former Perham Bakery owner

Ted Wenner makes an angel food cake at Perham Bakery, in this photo from 1980.

Submitted Photo

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FEBRUARY 20, 2020 “We used to make probably 200 loaves of bread a day,” Wenner recalled, as well as about 1,000 buns a day during busy times like the 4th of July weekend. At graduation, they’d typically make 30 to 40 cakes. Wenner’s wife, Doris, would decorate them. “We used to do about 1,000 cakes a year,” Wenner said.


Before his life as a baker began, Wenner was a military man. He served in the United States Army for two years, as a Specialist 4th Class in the 56th Signal Company. “I went to supply school in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, then signal supply school in Fort Gordon, Georgia,” Wenner said. From there, he was sent to Fort Ord, California, to join the 56th Signal Company. To get to California, he had to take a train to Chicago first, and then another to Fort Ord from there. It was a long trip, and Wenner arrived in California only to find out his company had already left for war games in Germany. “I get out there and my company is gone,” Wenner recalled. He did eventually join up with

GENERATIONS I was scared that I wasn’t going to see Minnesota again. -WENNER, on being a soldier during the Cuban Missile Crisis the 56th, spending three days in a reception center before being flown from San Francisco to Fort Dix, New Jersey, where he boarded a ship to Germany. As it turned out, the war games were cut short, and Wenner spent only about a month and a half in Germany before returning to the United States with his company in 1962. Then the Cuban Missile Crisis happened. An intense 13-day political and military standoff between the U.S. and the Soviet Union over Soviet nuclear missiles on Cuba, the crisis sparked international fears of a nuclear war. “That was a pretty scary deal,” Wenner said. “I was scared that I


wasn’t going to see Minnesota again.” Fortunately, the two countries struck a deal, disaster was avoided, and in July of 1963, Wenner did return to Minnesota again. He was also fortunate in that his time in the service ended before Vietnam broke out. “I was lucky — very lucky,” he said. “Those boys in Vietnam were pounded.” The year he returned was the year he met Doris, and the two were married the next year.


Wenner has lived his entire life in Perham, with the exception of the two years he served in the Army, and the one year after he and Doris were married, when they lived in Florida. “I worked on a tropical fish farm down there,” Wenner said. They were happy to come back home after that, and soon got into the bakery business. Looking back on it all now, Wenner said he’s lived a good, full life, one in which he owned a business, raised a family, and settled down in the hometown he loved.

RosaLin Alcoser / Generations

Ted Wenner served in the United States Army for two years in the early '60s, as a Specialist 4th Class in the 56th Signal Company.

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PAGE 6 He and Doris bought the house he was raised in in 1988, and still live there today. “My parents built this house in 1938 for $2,000,” Wenner said. “I’m glad that I was raised in Perham,” he added, explaining that he got to spend a lot of time playing outside with friends as a kid, as well as go skiing in the winter, go sledding, and fish with his father. Those early angling experiences fostered a love of the sport within Wenner, and he’s still an avid fisherman today. “I love to fish, that’s my thing,” he said. “I like being out on the water.” Nearly every day in the summer, he can be found fishing. The biggest fish he’s ever caught was an 11 lb., 8 oz. walleye, caught on Marion Lake. His time in the service has always stayed with him, as well, and after his retirement, from 2003-2005, Wenner served as the Perham

VFW Post 4020 Commander. He was the Commander when the In Their Own Words Veterans Museum opened. Wenner is also part of the local Color Guard. The most outstanding Color Guard service he recalls was for a man who had no wife or kids: “He wanted his ashes spread out by his deer stand,” Wenner said. He also wanted his hunting buddies to do the salute. So that is what they did: Seven guys, dressed in orange, gave a 21-gun salute, Wenner said. Tapes were played, the flag was folded, and the man’s ashes were scattered around his deer stand. That was it. In his own life, Wenner said there’ve been ups and downs, but he’s enjoyed the good times right along with the bad. “Life is like going over a rough road, every once in a while you hit a pothole,” he reflected. “I hope when everybody retires they’ve had as much fun as I’ve had in my life.”

FEBRUARY 20, 2020

Perham Focus File Photo

Ted Wenner is a member of the local VFW's Color Guard. He's pictured here, center, during a flag folding ceremony at a Veterans Day presentation at Perham High School in 2018.

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Tech upgrades have made most hearing aids today invisible, long-lasting

Michael Johnson / Generations

In-the-ear, receiver-in-canal and invisible-in-canal hearing aids are standard options for people these days.

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Michael Johnson / Generations

Brian Hillesland, hearing instrument specialist and owner of Jefferson Hearing Aid Center.

By Michael Johnson For Generations

hroughout recorded history, humans have suffered from hearing loss. To make matters worse, early steps to improve hearing were especially gaudy. From the whimsical ear trumpet to a vacuum tube unit the size of a filing cabinet, devices in the early 20th century were neither practical nor pretty. The last 15 years have seen dramatic changes in hearing devices. In many cases now, they’re invisible, longlasting and make for much-improved quality of life. Brian Hillesland, of Wadena, is the owner and hearing aid specialist of several hearing aid centers in the region, including Jefferson Hearing Aid Center. He started using hearing aids himself about a year and a half ago, he said — as soon as he identified a steady ringing in his ears as tinnitus. He finds that using hearing aids helps mask that annoyance. But cost is a major factor in keeping many people from getting hearing aids. Hillesland said quality hearing aids can range from $2,000 to $8,000, depending on what you want them to do for you. That cost usually includes a hearing test, con-

FEBRUARY 20, 2020 sultation, initial fitting, follow-up adjustments, routine cleanings, batteries and a warranty, when purchased from a hearing aid center rather than off the shelf. “You can find lower prices, but we want to be the best for service,” Hillesland said. Inevitably, a new user will, within the first couple weeks, need to go back in to finetune the device as they begin using it in various settings. That service may be ongoing over several visits. “We want to be available,” Hillesland said.

Photo courtesy of Wellcome Library, London

A 19th century ear trumpet.


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FEBRUARY 20, 2020 When weighing the cost of hearing aids, Hillesland said it’s important to consider that good hearing does more than just let you hear what’s around you. Good hearing translates to good overall health. “I do know depression and isolation, they happen all the time, I’ve seen it,” he said, adding that some clients say they don’t care to go to church or family gatherings anymore because they can’t hear what’s being said anyway. People aged 50 and older with untreated hearing loss are more likely to report depression, anxiety, anger, frustration, emotional instability and paranoia, and are less likely to participate in social activities than those who wear hearing aids, according to hearing aid company Audibel. Hearing loss is also connected to cognitive decline, as adults with severe hearing loss are four times more likely to develop dementia. While one in five people suffer from hearing loss, 80 percent do nothing about it. It’s not just the


People aged 50 and older with untreated hearing loss are more likely to report depression, anxiety, anger, frustration, emotional instability and paranoia, and are less likely to participate in social activities than those who wear hearing aids. elderly that suffer, either — as many as one in five teenagers have some type of hearing loss.


Hillesland started working in the hearing aid industry in 1986, when his father bought hearing aids for the first time. At that time, there were no digital devices or programmable hearing aids. “They kind of had to adapt to a lot of things,” Hillesland said. “Now, with digital technology, we can do so much more as far as adjusting specific sounds for different frequencies and different vol-

ume levels. They can recognize which sounds are speech and which sounds are noise. There’s a big difference.” Today’s hearing devices slip into the ear with ease and are barely visible. The smaller, longer-lasting battery technology has allowed users to go about a week at a time before replacing batteries, and rechargeable batteries last long enough to get a person through a whole day before needing a quick recharge. Those powerful batteries don’t just amplify hearing anymore, but can also help cancel out annoying ringing in the ears. In addition,

some higher-dollar devices are bluetooth capable, meaning they can remotely connect to a smartphone. This allows the wearer to have a phone conversation using the microphones in their hearing aids. Today’s top hearing aids even take overall health into account. “In the works are hearing aids that can take your temperature, read your heart rate and measure your blood pressure,” Hillesland said. “One of the things that’s a real lifesaver is there are motion sensors in some of these now.” Hearing aids with motion sensors track the wearer’s

steps, and if the sensor finds that the user has fallen, that person will get a message on their phone checking their status. If they don’t respond back, the user’s contact list starts to get notified, with location information so they can find the person. Unique features like that can add to people’s overall wellness, but Hillesland’s No. 1 goal is to help people hear. “Better hearing is the most important thing,” he said. When someone goes in looking to improve their hearing, Hillesland considers what device will work best for them, what look they like, how well the user can handle the device, and what they can afford. Hillesland received his board certification in Hearing Instrument Sciences in 1997, and in 2001 he started Jefferson Hearing Aid Center in Wadena, which also has locations in Perham, Park Rapids, Detroit Lakes and Fergus Falls. He also has a hearing aid location in Brainerd, Preferred Hearing Aid Center.


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Michael Johnson / Generations

The modern hearing aid is invisible from the front and only slightly visible from the rear. Some of the first electronic hearing aids were the size of filing cabinets.





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FIND TIME TO DISCUSS END-OF-LIFE GOALS, FEARS By Rebecca Mitchell For Generations The process of aging inevitably brings with it a discussion about the end of life. It’s a subject everybody loves to avoid, but it’s one that’s best dealt with sooner rather than later. The topic is tackled in the PBS documentary “Being Mortal,” based on the book by author and surgeon Dr. Atul Gawande, which was recently screened by a group of regional health care professionals at Greenwood Connections Senior Living in Menahga. “Being Mortal” explores how doctors care for terminally ill patients, and highlights the ways that many of them, including Gawande himself, struggle to talk candidly with them about death. Patients, family members and doctors featured in the documentary ask poignant questions about continuing treatments to prolong

life, and about how the end of their lives should be spent. Sue Sorensen, the community relations specialist for Hospice of the Red River Valley, says having end-of-life conversations is important, similar to planning for a wedding or having a baby. “A lot of people have strong feelings about their wishes regarding feeding tubes, respirators … what do you want your story to be?,” she asked. “Do you want to be in the hospital? Do you want to be hooked up to machines? Or would you prefer staying home, being kept comfortable?” Hospice of the Red River Valley offers hospice care, palliative care and house calls, with hospice care in nursing homes, assisted living, private homes, or wherever people consider their home to be, according to Sorensen. The company serves areas in Minnesota and North Dakota, including in Wadena, Todd and Otter Tail Counties.

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PAGE 12 Sorensen has experience working with patients in a nursing home, and she talked about the difficulties of having end-of-life discussions. The documentary also showed three hard conversations about death between patients, their family members and their doctors. It’s not always easy for people to accept or understand the news that they or a loved one is dying. “When you first bring it up, often people are hesitant to talk, and it’s not always the person that’s hospice-appropriate that has a hard time talking about it, sometimes it’s their family members, too,” Sorensen said. “But it really truly is a gift when you talk to your family about your wishes. And I think the more you do it, the more comfortable a conversation it is. And it’s definitely best to start

those conversations when you’re not in a crisis.” When priorities are discussed ahead of time, treatment can then be tuned to those, according to Gawande and palliative care specialist Dr. Kathy Selvaggi in the documentary. At Greenwood Connections Senior Living, administrator Laura Ahlf values supporting patients and their family members in the end-of-life process. The facility has 49 rooms for long-stay residents and 16 rooms for short-stay or transitional care residents. There are also adult day services, assisted living, home health and outpatient therapy services available. “I feel we … really support the resident and their family, to allow them to make the decisions that they feel best, and if that decision is hospice, we embrace that deci-

sion with them,” Ahlf stated in an email. “We have a couple different hospice providers that we contract with to make the dying process as comfortable as we can for the resident.” In the documentary, Gawande shared his personal experience with end-oflife conversations, when his father was diagnosed with cancer. The conversations were sad and hard, even with three family members being doctors, he said. Gawande’s father shared how he wanted to be social, and if a situation arose where a ventilator was required, his choice was to die. His wishes “became our guidepost,” Gawande said, helping his family make difficult decisions over the rest of his life. “Telling the doctor that it’s OK … if there’s nothing

FEBRUARY 20, 2020 else to do, I guess that was the biggest thing,” Ahlf said about what she learned from the documentary. A change seen widely within nursing homes in recent years is a greater understanding of what hospice does and when it should be used. “I know that we have come a long way in partnering with hospice from where we were years ago,” Ahlf said. “We’re more open to that understanding, that knowing that we don’t have all the answers.” Sorensen said hospice care is for people who are not receiving aggressive treatment and have six months or less to live, though patients can still “graduate” from this and live longer. Hospice of the Red River Valley provides symptom management, aroundthe-clock care, and medication adjustments for comfort.

“People can have different types of pain, it’s not always physical pain, and when someone’s on hospice, I think that gives us the chance to look at that entire person — spiritually, emotionally, physically — and to help them work through some hard things they’re going through in life or to mend relationships. There’s so much more than just dealing with physical pain and medication,” Sorensen said. When people in hospice care pass away, there is further support for their families. “Hospice is just as much for families as it is for the patient,” Sorensen said. Follow-up services are offered for at least 13 months following the loss and include support groups or one-onone support with a bereavement specialist.

Rebecca Mitchell / Generations

Those who attended the documentary received Dr. Atul Gawande's questions on setting end-of-life priorities, such as "What trade-offs are you willing to make and not willing to make?" Resources available from the Red River Valley included information on hospice and palliative care as well as an advance directive.

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By John Lundy Forum News Service Work to design a “report card” for assisted-living facilities in Minnesota is entering its third phase with a target of having the online tool fully in place by the end of summer 2022. Along the way, Minnesota is advancing from the back of the pack in its regulation

of the facilities to at or near the top, says one of the report card’s designers. “What we’re doing here in Minnesota, we jumped from the bottom of the line to the front of the line, because we are actually … (establishing) a precedent for how this work could be done,” said Tetyana Shippee, an associate professor in the University of Minnesota School of Public Health.

Assisted-living facilities provide a varying level of services to residents below the level of skilled-nursing facilities — traditionally known as nursing homes — in a more homelike atmosphere. They can range from utilitarian to downright swanky. “People thrive in the shared warmth of a community offering sunny outdoor patios, a garden room, cozy

common areas and shoreline views,” says the website for The Shores, the assisted-living facility at Ecumen Lakeshore in Duluth. “Chefprepared meals are served in The Shores’ beautiful lakeside dining area.” That’s not what assisted living looks like everywhere, said Patti Cullen, president and CEO of the industry group Care Providers of Minnesota.



FEBRUARY 20, 2020

“You’re not going to get … assisted-living (facilities) that have the pool room and the library and the walk-in therapy pool and all those added features; you’re not going to see that in some of the communities where they just know their market is people who are poor,” Cullen said. Below the surface, you might not know what you’re really getting, because Minnesota is the only state in the nation where assisted-living housing is unregulated. Prompted by media reports of abuse in some facilities, the Minnesota Legislature last year passed an elder care reform package. One of the elements of the package is the development of the online report card, which will be intended to allow consumers to see who the places they’re considering for their loved ones have been evaluated by others according to certain criteria. It’s something that consumers have come to expect, said Cheryl Hennen, ombudsman for the Minnesota Board on Aging. “When we are purchasing a service, or we’re purchasing a product, as an example off of Amazon, we’ll see reviews,” Hennen said. “I feel that the American consumer needs to be much more aware of what other people are experiencing.” An online report card already exists for the state’s nursing homes, but the version for assisted-living facilities won’t merely duplicate that, Shippee said. “Assisted living is not — I will say with an underline and bold — nursing homes,” she said. “The history of assisted living is different. It serves, aims to serve, in a different way.”

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FEBRUARY 20, 2020 So Shippee led a team formed last year that first looked at national sources and other states to see how they were evaluating assisted-living facilities. In late September, they shifted their sights to Minnesota, gaining input from focus groups, webinars and an online survey. By late November, they had input from more than a thousand people. She was impressed, Shippee said, that 30% of survey respondents were residents or family members. Many took the time to write out thoughtful answers to open-ended questions. The level of response showed her that this is an issue of importance to Minnesotans. From providers and family members, via all means of gathering information, three concerns consistently rose to the top, Shippee said:  esidents’ quality of life. ►R ► Staff quality. ► Safety.


Residents’ quality of life will be a key element in the

Getty Images

Minnesota is advancing from the back of the pack in its regulation of assisted-living facilities to at or near the top, thanks to the state's work on a new "report card" system of reviews. report card when it comes out, Shippee said. Safety issues are being addressed in some of the other measures in the elder care reform package. But based on the survey, she plans to advocate that more attention be paid to staff quality. “Our items on staff quality were not just about staffing ratios,” she said. “Many people, in open-ended comments,

wrote about staff training, staff credentials, staff actually treating people with dignity and respect.” That concern is linked to lack of numbers, said Maisie Blaine, a regional ombudsman on the Board of Aging. “Despite the fact that facilities are doing staff training and vulnerable adult education, they’re keeping some-

PAGE 15 times substandard employees and just reprimanding and reeducating, because they don’t have anyone else that wants to come in and work,” Blaine said. “And then residents, of course, feel that. They can tell if someone doesn’t want to physically be there caring for them.” She wants to see what the state will come up with for minimum staffing numbers at assisted-living facilities, because there’s currently no required staff-to-resident ratio, Blaine said. But in a season of relatively low unemployment, the needed people just aren’t available. Shippee is impatient with the argument, at least when it comes to assisted living, that facilities can’t afford to raise staffing and quality levels by paying more because their government reimbursements are too low. “Let’s not forget that with assisted living, a tiny sliver of pay comes from Medicaid,” Shippee said. “This is all private pay. And these are high rates that folks are paying.”

Providers welcome the idea of a report card, and Cullen said she’s mostly pleased with the process so far. She’s a little concerned, she added, about the possibility of going overboard on the side of safety at the expense of the resident independence that has been a hallmark of assisted living. “There’s a tendency to go to the highest level of regulatory oversight, so safety at all costs,” Cullen said. “But yet these are individual seniors that have free will and free choice and freedom to make bad choices.” Now that data collection is complete, the process continues. Peter Spuit, a Minnesota Department of Human Services official involved in the project, said a pilot program will be conducted in September and the online report card development will begin next January. The report card, containing multiple measures, including survey results, will be rolled out from September 2021 through August 2022.


Assisted Living & Memory Care Suites *Programing designed for people with varying stages of dementia


* Restaurant Style Dining * Beauty Salon * Daily Towel and Garbage Service * All Utilities

(excluding telephone) * Basic Direct TV/ Internet WiFi Access * Daily Life Engaging Activity Program


* 3 daily meals provided * Medication Management * Weekly Shower Assistance * RN Case Management

110 Hemlock Ave NW, Wadena, MN 56482 • 218-632-3610

* 24-Hour On-Site Trained Staff * Personal Care Assistance * Personal Hygiene Assistance

Visit us at www.meadowsofwadena.org



FEBRUARY 20, 2020

Profile for Wadena Pioneer Journal

Generations 2020  

Annual publication focusing on seniors living in the Perham & Wadena, MN area.

Generations 2020  

Annual publication focusing on seniors living in the Perham & Wadena, MN area.