They have had a handicap accessible van since the 80s, were featured in the Pioneer Press in 1982, they eventually installed an elevator in their family home, and both parents spent dedicated time at the Capitol over the years advocating for inclusion for the disabled community. With their advocacy personified, Stephen was the first student in the St. Paul Public School System to use in an electric wheelchair in school. The family was and remains dedicated to inclusion in family activities and community involvement. Just last Sunday Stephen and Sarah went to a family reunion and a Twins game.
The empathy this family possesses is obvious to all, and the dedication to their siblings and others with disabilities, as well as the staff who care for them, is astounding. For the Hughes family, donating back to the organization that gave them so much was a step they were honored to take.
Bernadette, who is almost 86, and cared for her children in the family home. When the family ultimately made the decision to find a place for Stephen and Sarah as they aged, the home needed to be the right fit as the people who care for them every day would have a huge impact on their lives. It was important to her that their home was more than a house.
Joe Hughes, one of the siblings, admits it was hard in the beginning as it was so much change. And he is grateful to Living Well staff for helping his family ease into the new normal for their siblings—for helping them transition from caring for Sarah and Stephen themselves, to having Living Well take the lead. Joe says, “The staff appreciates our involvement. When we stay very involved it helps the staff know how special they are to us. It is a win for all of us to be involved and work together.” Adding, “We can see the love and devotion from the staff. And even though Sarah and Stephen are no longer living in the family home, we are all family, now with the addition of the Living Well staff.”
Brother Nate Hughes agrees, saying, “Mom went as long as she could, and she felt like it was time. To have the safety and comfort of where they are is so helpful and meaningful to all of us. Having a great community and continuity of care if super important to our family.” Adding, “The party was absolutely 100 percent about showing the staff how much we appreciate them. That they give such great care, and to send the message that they are part of the family. We appreciate them and want to say thank you in small ways whenever possible.”
Nate knows his siblings feel safe, protected, and settled in the home and get along well with the staff, and that gives him peace of mind. He marvels with appreciation of people who choose this career as a vocation—to work with people who cannot always communicate verbally and need extra assistance throughout the day. That they show up every day with kindness in their hearts means a lot. Nate says, “It is a calling for people, and we are so grateful for each and every one of them.”
The party last Friday was a way for the Hughes family to show their appreciation to Living Well and the staff. They knocked it out of the park. Siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles all came to celebrate Sarah and Stephen as well Diane and Robert, and to show their staff how much the family appreciates the amazing work they do. Carrie Jensen, Program Manager, feels the support and says, “It has been a heartwarming experience over the past year to get to know the Hughes Family. They are such a caring and supportive family. Advocating daily for their siblings and for the staff that care for Sarah and Stephen. Thank you Hughes Family for ALL that you do!”
The family donated to supporting the staff and helping with DSP week activities while looking forward to many more parties and get togethers. They hope this inspires other families to consider doing the same. Thank you to the entire Hughes family for trusting the care of Sarah and Stephen with us and supporting our staff in such a meaningful way.
If you are interested in learning ways to support like the Hughes family, please contact Devan.Heinsen@livingwell.org