Diane Tiedeman and her mother, Lois
Diane Tiedeman, right, got to spend more time with her mother, Lois, during the pandemic lockdown because she worked at the senior living community where her mother lived.

Diane Tiedeman is no stranger to food service. She and her husband formerly managed a steakhouse before selling it to one of their employees. As she searched for another job, she discovered she didn’t have to look very far. 

“I was here at Orchard Hills visiting my mom three years ago. I walked by the dining room and kitchen and thought, ‘Hey, I could do that,’ ” Tiedeman said. “On my way out, I peeked my head into the front office and asked if they had any openings. There happened to be an opening in dietary. It was like a sign from God.”

Ever since that moment, Tiedeman has worked as the lead cook at Sanford Health Dell Rapids Orchard Hills, an independent living and assisted living community in Dell Rapids, SD. It also happens to be where her mother, Lois, has been living since 2017. Tiedeman’s start date couldn’t have come at a more chaotic time, but it turned out to be a blessing.

“[Orchard Hills] went into lockdown the week before I started,” Tiedeman said. “So I was the only one in with my mom — the only one of six children who was able to go in and see her. That’s huge, because she has memory loss, she can’t see very well and she can’t hear very well.”

Having lost her husband in 2019, Lois still was adjusting to life on her own. Tiedeman’s employment at her community has been a major boon for the transition. Her relationship with her mother has only strengthened during her time in the kitchen, she said.

“With the loss of Dad not being there — she depended on him a lot,” Tiedeman said. “I guess I took the reins of being her shoulder to lean on, and she trusted me.”

Just as her mother trusts her, Tiedeman said she trusts the team at Orchard Hills to give Lois the best care possible. It has been a godsend for her.

“The care is top-notch. When I have a few days off not being around her, I know they’re taking care of her,” Tiedeman said. “I know they’re checking on her, and they’re always there for her. If I didn’t have that, I don’t know what I would do.”

Having Orchard Hills watch over her mother’s health means that Tiedeman can focus on more important things. Like her mother’s dessert portions. 

“I have to admit, sometimes, if there is a bigger piece of pie or cake, she gets it,” she said. “Everyone’s got a sweet tooth now.”

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