Special needs, special situation, a very special solution

Doug McKinnon rarely visited the doctor. The 65-yearold typically shrugged off health concerns until one day last November, he couldn’t ignore them. Doug was found driving erratically — his son Steven in the car — two hours from their northern Minnesota home. While talking to Doug, the police officer
sensed something was very wrong. Emergency room doctors at Ridgeview Medical Center in Waconia, Minn., determined Doug had suffered multiple strokes, causing vascular dementia.

Caring for Doug presented a unique challenge: He was never apart from Steven, who is developmentally disabled and handicapped.

“We typically don’t have two patients in a room, but Doug and Steven needed each other. We just
had to make it work,” said Ridgeview nurse Beth Stender, R.N.

Ann McKinnon was living on the East Coast when she received the shock of having her father unexpectedly hospitalized, her brother in tow. She flew to Minnesota to be with her family. As Doug recovered, Ann evaluated foster placements for Steven and skilled nursing care for Doug, who didn’t have health care coverage.

“It was really important to me that they be together,” Ann McKinnon said.

A social worker suggested The Lutheran Home (TLH) Campus in Belle Plaine, with memory care for Doug and Hope Residence, which had an extensive array of services to support and enhance Steven’s daily life. Unfortunately, Hope had no openings. But a special situation calls for a special solution.

“We worked with Hope to say, ‘Could we meet Steven’s needs in our Transitional Care Unit (TCU)
in the nursing home for the interim?’” said TLH Administrator Ann Robinson.

blog_mckinnon.jpgBoth men were admitted to campus within days of each other. It was a complete change of routine for
Steven, and very traumatic. He cried inconsolably the first night, and TLH team members did their best to comfort him. Someone went looking for movies; another got Steven a pizza. The housekeeper on duty let him tag along as she cleaned to ease his anxiety.

“I don’t know what we would have done without them. I think it would have been such a different
situation if we would have had to go to another facility. I’m just really grateful,” Ann McKinnon said.

While Steven was living in the TCU, team members at Hope invited him over to participate in bingo, Bible classes, bowling and making crafts, which allowed him to become comfortable and make friends at Hope. Hope team members also spent time talking one-on-one with Steven to get to know him. Soon a room opened at Hope, and Steven moved in. Transitioning again was hard. But Kayla Trocke, the supervisor of Steven’s living area, has seen Steven’s mood improve. Now he’s often spotted sitting in the living room, playing piano and singing while he entertains friends. And he has his first job, working at New Options.

“He’s doing awesome,” Kayla said. “He absolutely loves going to work. He does not want to miss that bus in the morning.”

“The dedicated, caring team is what makes Hope feel like home to new residents,” said Debra  Wilbright, Director of Disability Services. Team members welcomed Steven and looked for ways to meet his unique needs.

“We allow residents’ individual personalities to shine and don’t try to change them,” Debra said. “Steven loves Santa Claus, enjoys wearing a Santa hat while at home and often pretends to be Santa. It brings him happiness, and it’s important we find these little things that make residents smile.”

Despite excellent care, Doug’s condition declined. He passed away in April. Now living in New York with her husband, Mike McDonald, Ann McKinnon visits Steven as often as possible and takes comfort in knowing he feels at home at Hope.

“Everybody that I’ve met, all the staff just seem like genuinely caring and nice people,” she said. “At some places, it feels like maybe people are just there for a paycheck. But when I go and visit Steven, and when I would visit my dad, I felt like the staff really wanted to be there. They really care about the residents. That’s a unique thing, and you can’t find that everywhere.”

*Photo courtesy of Sarah Grace Photography