By Marilyn Westphal (in Memory of Guy Westphal)
This week’s blog is unique as it is a submission by a family member of someone who lived at a Living Well Disability Services home for nine years. It is a love story with many layers and the perfect tale to be told the week of Thanksgiving.
Let me start by sharing a little background. Shortly after my husband, Guy Westphal, was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1991, I saw an article in the Sun Current (I believe) about the concept of a group home for people with disabilities and it was just opening in Lakeville. I had cut out the article and picture and saved it. I believe the residents, four women at that time, were having cocktails and playing cards in a beautiful home environment. Years later as Guy’s illness progressed, we looked for options to facilitate care. I was a nurse so I could handle the complexity of Guy’s cares but it was on top of being a mother to two young boys, the primary provider, and caretaker of all household tasks. We tried bringing aides into our home to assist while I worked but it wasn’t consistent or dependable. I asked to be on a waiting list for Inndalle, I think it took about seven years to work our way to the top of the list. In February of 2013, we got a call that there was an opening, but it needed to be claimed immediately.
It was one of the hardest decisions ever to put a loved one in a care facility and especially at the age of 51. Guy’s wish was to see his boys grow up. Both of our boys were in college now. Inndale was a “LIFE RING” for me and a HOME for Guy. Our relationship could return to a time to visit, share, talk, and eat together rather than the tasks of care giving, and stress involved on a daily basis. There were days that Guy wasn’t pleasant and took his anger out on those closest to him. He felt he had no control on anything in his life anymore. Inndale allowed personalization of his room with a hunting, fishing, and Vikings theme. They allowed meals of choice for him on occasion as visitors would bring in fish to fry, venison and liver to eat. Blessings to PCA Lisa or Mary for cooking his liver and onions for him!! He was always made to feel special. He had a unique sense of humor, and if you figured it out, it could be some fun banter.
Many clients and staff passed through the home during his nine-year stay. The current group of clients and workers became like FAMILY. This was evidenced in the last days of his life and since that time, as we all mourn his loss. They came in to say their goodbyes to Guy and condolences to me and our family. Living Well also arranged for transportation so all residents of this home and workers that wanted to could attend his celebration of life. This was heartfelt and amazing. They wore some of his Vikings apparel as a symbol of their support. Guy passed away on July 7th, 2022.
As I thought about how to repay lnndale, Living Well, the staff, and residents, I decided to leave a lasting, but changeable, impression on their home in his memory and as a token of our appreciation. I want everyone who enters to know that it is a more than a care facility. It is a home, a proud place to work, and a place of compassion. This past summer the Inndale home replaced their ramp, railings, and some landscaping changes. I expounded on that update by asking permission of Inndale and Living Well to update the front entrance to make it more inviting to all who enter. This consisted of updated outdoor rugs, a table and table decoration, and painting the front door and shutters. Previously they were a worn-out wine-colored shutter and white door. Because Guy was such a Vikings lover, I hoped I could take the wine color to a purple hue of eggplant paint. Not exactly Vikings purple, but it can be decorated throughout any season of the year. It was a beautiful fall day in October, (the week of Guy’s birthday) that I appeared on a Saturday to do the transformation. I spoke with each of the other four residents. All came outside to check it out, visit, supervise, laugh, and ridicule me about the paint color chosen. Staff would check in too. At the end of the day, I hope it brings lasting joy, smiles, memories, and warmth to all those who enter. I plan to return and update the table décor seasonally and visit with all. Thank you for this opportunity.
With my sincere and grateful appreciation, Marilyn Westphal
Many thanks to Marilyn for sharing her husband Guy, her children, and their story with us. As Marilyn says, Living Well homes are so much more than facilities—they are homes with unique and incredible people living and working within. We are filled with gratitude to know that we were able to be of support to Marilyn and Guy, and that we get to show up for the people we serve in so many beautiful ways. To life a rich and full life in the midst of disability is the goal, as we all deserve to be fully seen and supported. Happy Thanksgiving to all!