The Freedom to Choose

Imagine the frustration that would build if you couldn’t get your point across for 50 years. How relieved would you feel if your choices were finally understood?

Richard had that experience. He has had difficulty communicating his entire life and has medical needs that limit his mobility and require 24-hour care. Richard moved into his Living Well Disability Services home in the winter of 2007 after traumatic times in another location. Since then, his family reports that he is happier and healthier than ever before.

Richard’s use of eye contact helps solidify his choices. While his tenacious staff do not know everything he is thinking, they continue to present options to assess Richard’s likes and dislikes daily. Working to create an environment that is flexible and reflective of his choices, we learned that Richard does not like meat – choosing tofu and fresh vegetables instead; he prefers the company of people familiar to him over new faces; and, he is an enthusiastic bird watcher and an avid fisherman.

“We continue to work with Richard to understand his communication style, and the progress is helping us to honor his wishes… from what he eats and drinks to what bath products he prefers,” says Christine Marlo, one of his favorite staff members (pictured at left with Richard).

According to his parents, Clarence and Rose, “Richard now perks up, smiles, laughs and tries to enter into a conversation. It’s as though he wants to let us know what has happened in his life since our last visit.” Richard now participates joyously in large family reunions and Christmas parties with relatives.

As Living Well Disability Services grows and evolves to respond to changing community needs, we are finding new ways to provide choice to individuals with intellectual, physical and developmental disabilities. We look to stories like Richard’s as our inspiration for the future.

A Passion for Going Places

Like many of us, David loves the activities that the fall season brings. On September 1st, 2011 he moved into the Living Well Disability Services Elgin Court home in Apple Valley. That same day he and his staff headed to the Metrodome to catch a Vikings game.
Engaging in community activities is a way of life for David and his housemate, Jeff. They have a passion for going places. Since moving in together the two have become fast friends. “David and Jeff both love to be out doing things, and they have the same positive energy,” says David’s mother Marissa Rosenblum. “They are a great match!”

Whether they are picking apples at an orchard or cheering on their favorite teams, people like David and Jeff are on the move and building relationships. Taking part in community, recreational and outdoor activities is just one way that people with disabilities are living full lives at Living Well Disability Services. Thanks to donor support, they can enjoy a blazing campfire with friends, sing along at a concert, play hockey, attend a rodeo, or go for a relaxing swim.

David, right, and his friend Jeff are pictured above visiting a local gardening center.

The Magic of Technology

When Apple introduced the iPad® in 2010, the company declared the new device “magical.” While skeptics rolled their eyes, one Living Well Disability Services resident was a shining example of what becomes possible with the help of technology.Laura

At Living Well Disability Services, the iPad’s user-friendly touch screen is “pure magic” and a therapeutic marvel for people with disabilities. For Laura, who is fifty-three years old and has Down syndrome, the iPad is much more than a high-tech toy. It is a gateway to independence that allows her to listen to her favorite music, stay connected to her family and improve her dexterity. With the touch of a screen, Laura downloads applications that are designed to compliment her needs and abilities. She once listened to her favorite country music stars on cassette tapes, CDs and MP3s using technology that someone else had to operate. Now Laura can independently download the music of Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash on the iPad she received last Christmas as a gift from her family and Living Well Disability Services donors.

Adaptive technology increases engagement, independence and satisfaction by accounting for unique abilities.

Laura, who lives at the Living Well Disability Services Big Lake home, also looks at her favorite family photographs on her iPad and performs exercises that improve her hand-eye coordination. Julie Peterson, Laura’s Personal Advocate for almost twenty-five years, loves exploring the possibilities of the iPad alongside Laura. “You don’t know what someone can do unless you give them the tools to try,” she says.

Growing Friendships, Growing Volunteers

Randy enjoys games like Uno and Yahtzee so much he was ready for a few new friendly competitors. And given hisdesire to help others as well, he realized a volunteer position at a local nursing home would be the ideal way to make some new friends while helping others. With the assistance of his direct support professional, Randy hasRandy played board games at GracePointe Crossing nursing home every week over the last three years. As Randy says, “I get to have fun doing what I love while I am contributing time to others.” And the residents he visits are thrilled to have such an enthusiastic visitor.

Volunteer jobs are not always accessible for people with disabilities like Randy. Fortunately he found a volunteer position with an organization willing to make accommodations to capitalize on his strengths. Through Randy’s partnership with GracePointe Crossing and the support of Living Well Disability Services, he has expanded his social network and found a way to bring joy to others who look forward to his visits. He enthusiastically says, “Through my volunteer work, I have been able to make new friends.”

More than just fun, friendships can “yield a multitude of long-term physical and emotional health benefits,” according to author Madeline Vann. She adds, “Maintaining positive relationships should rank up there with healthy eating and exercise as a necessary investment in your health.” Randy and his close friends at GracePointe Crossing would surely agree.

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Equal Opportunity Employer: Minorities, Women, Veterans, Disabilities. Living Well is a tobacco-free organization.