Belle Plaine, MN–Luther Spaude wanted to keep his son Stephen and his wife Ruth close to him while having their spiritual and physical needs met, especially since “to guide my family and see they go to heaven” is his purpose in life. His 4 children and wife mean everything to him. But he didn’t know what a challenge it would be to meet Stephen and Ruth’s needs.
The story begins with Luther’s son, Stephen, who has a developmental disability (he has been evaluated to be at a 3-year-old’s level) and epilepsy. Luther, a minister and teacher, recognized that Stephen had unique needs at an early age. So, he accepted a teaching position in Milwaukee because his first choice for a home for Stephen was in a nearby community. When it became clear he required specialized care, the family wanted Steve in a setting that offered spiritual service, but programs meeting Steve’s needs weren’t available at their preferred location. While Stephen lived in a state institution, Luther advocated for years to have his son live at the family’s first choice, finally reaching that goal in 1980.
However, in 2010, deinstitutionalization laws affected Stephen—the family received a letter that Stephen needed to be moved to a new home by December 31. Naomi, Stephen’s oldest sister, was very surprised, “I never thought that the downsizing would affect Steve because of his abilities.”
Additionally, Luther also had the care of his wife, Ruth, on his mind. She had had 3 strokes between 2003-2004. After the third stroke, she required skilled nursing care and was living in a nursing home in Milwaukee. Before receiving the letter about Stephen, Luther was trying to find a skilled nursing opening for Ruth and an apartment for himself in the same community as Stephen. Plus, “the lawn mower and shovel were getting heavier all the time.”
Now, Luther and his family were now faced with the challenge of finding a new home that included spiritual care for Stephen, in addition to Luther’s wish to be near both his wife and son. The family knew of The Lutheran Home Association and its campus in Belle Plaine, but was unsure if it could be a solution for the family due to distance.
But as they thought about it, they realized The Lutheran Home Campus had all the services they were looking for: The Lutheran Home: Hope Residence offered a home for people with developmental disabilities for Stephen, The Lutheran Home: Belle Plaine offered skilled nursing care for Ruth, and Kingsway Retirement Living offered independent living for Luther. Even more importantly, Naomi explains, The Lutheran Home Campus provides spiritual care: “Lots of places don’t take care of the soul, but here, the motto is ‘Where the Care of the Soul is the Soul of Care.’ What’s here goes past the grave, and that’s what we wanted more than anything else.”
The family began to make inquiries about moving Stephen, and in May 2010, Debra Wilbright, Administrator of Hope Residence, traveled to Watertown to visit Stephen and to help determine if Hope Residence would meet his needs.
The process wasn’t easy though. There was paperwork, paperwork and more paperwork to facilitate the move. At times, Luther wondered if it was worth it. “The only thing that kept me going was my children,” and credits his daughter Beth for handling much of the work and being determined that “we’re going to do this.”
Stephen moved into his new home July 6. Next on Luther’s list was to move his wife to The Lutheran Home: Belle Plaine, and she was moved in August 18. Now, “nothing was holding me back,” and Luther moved to Kingsway September 1, with a thankful heart and sigh of relief—“It’s worth more than words can say.” Naomi concurs, “We can relax now, everyone’s taken care of, body and soul.”