Peterson thrives through interaction

Joyce Peterson is caregiver services coordinator at CREST, a volunteer service focused on the needs of caregivers and receivers in Martin County.

After retirement, many people find joy and purpose in giving back to others. While there are many ways to contribute, Joyce Peterson has found that she enjoys helping senior citizens.

Peterson is caregiver services coordinator at CREST, a volunteer service focused on the needs of caregivers and receivers in Martin County.

Peterson worked as a lab and X-ray technologist for 42 years at medical facilities, including hospitals in Trimont and Windom, and clinics in Estherville, Mountain Lake and Windom.

“When I retired, I missed the senior citizens that would come in,” she said. “I visited with them a lot. When I worked in the lab, I did the blood draws and the full works and it was fun to visit with them. I really enjoyed the people contact.”

After she retired, she began working part time at an assisted-living facility in Mountain Lake called “The Lodge.”

She shared how she heard about CREST.

“I saw an ad in the paper and I gave Karen (Koeder) a call,” Peterson said. “She tells me I must have been excited about it because I called her on a Sunday night.”

Peterson began working as the program coordinator at CREST in November 2015, just a year after she retired from her lab and X-ray position.

“One of the things that caught my eye in the ad was caregiver experience, and I had that,” she said. “Not just in the medical aspect, but my dad had Parkinson’s and my father-in-law had Parkinson’s, and his three sisters also had Parkinson’s.”

Peterson said everyone is affected differently by different illnesses, so their needs vary. It has been helpful for her to witness first-hand how people are impacted and the ways they can be helped.

While the title of her position has changed a few times over the years, Peterson has continued to do the same job, with the addition of several more things.

“We had the three support groups when I started but then we added the low-vision support group this past November,” she explained.

The other three support groups CREST offers are one for general caregivers, one for caregivers for people afflicted with dementia/Alzheimer’s, and one for people afflicted with Parkinson’s disease or their caregiver.

There are about 65 people in all of the support groups Peterson assists.

Another program CREST offers and that Peterson oversees is Lunch and Learn. These events take place in Sherburn, Fairmont and Trimont.

“It’s an educational piece and I try to pick a topic that’s interesting to people,” Peterson said.

She is responsible for finding a guest speaker and organizing the noon meal that is part of the event. She said between 20 and 25 people typically attend the gatherings.

“I love them,” Peterson said. “You get to know the people who come to them.”

She also leads several classes, including Matter of Balance, an eight-week course designed to help seniors overcome their fear of falling, and Powerful Tools for Caregivers classes, a six-week course that provides tips for caregivers to take care of themselves.

“Besides the support groups and the classes, I do one-on-one consultations with caregivers when it’s needed,” Peterson said.

She also oversees the Reach Program, designed primarily for Alzheimer’s caregivers. It’s a four-week program that concentrates on a specific problem they face. Peterson will often meet with the caregiver in his or her home.

While Peterson’s position is part time, she is always researching topics, studies and articles that could be helpful in any of the support groups or classes. While she is busy with her work at CREST, she would not have it any other way.

“I love the people contact,” she said. “These are my kind of people, I relate well to older people.”

In addition to her work with CREST, Peterson plays the organ at her church in rural Odin and is the craft lady at Sunday school. Peterson also leads her church’s quilt group. They make quilts throughout the year to donate to Human Services in Watonwan, Cottonwood and Martin counties.

“They’re a busy little bunch,” she said of the women in the group. “I can barely stay ahead of them.”

Between her work with CREST, time at church and her own family and friends, Peterson stays busy but says she has no plans to slow down anytime soon.