Resident Spotlights

Gaining independence: Lou and Karen’s story of thriving together in community

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Meeting the needs of people where they are at is important to us at Presbyterian Homes & Services (PHS). That’s why we felt blessed to hear Lou’s inspiring testimony. By choosing PHS, Lou and his wife Karen gained independence, and thrive in community with one another plus loads of new friends.

Residents Lou and Karen Clark are known by nearly everyone who lives and works at Orchard Path in Apple Valley, MN.

Most afternoons Lou can be spotted volunteering at the main reception desk — welcoming all with a warm smile, hello … and maybe a short life story with a punch line! 😊

Living in a community with a continuum of care services

Meanwhile, just a short walking distance from the main lobby, Karen lives in the memory care neighborhood, blessing others with her “larger than life” personality, says April Haenni, resident services director.

“Lou and Karen moved to an independent living apartment shortly after we opened in 2018,” April explains. “They made friends quickly and were active in the community. After a couple of years, they needed a setting where they could receive some services, so they moved to an assisted living apartment.

“Lou still resides [there], and Karen is now living in our memory care community where Lou visits her faithfully. Both Lou and Karen are thriving in their respective care environments. Karen is very social and loves participating in Life Enrichment activities. Lou is also very social and has many friends across [Orchard Path].”

Compassionate caregiver is Karen’s ‘best friend’

Lou cherishes seeing Karen every day and feels such gratitude to her caregivers. “It’s not been easy,” he said. “I mean, we’ve been married 56 years and started dating three years before that. So, I’ve been with Karen for 59 years, and thank goodness I can still be with her.”

During a recent visit, he recalls Karen asking, “Oh Lou, have you met my best friend?” referring to Resident Assistant Josephine Amadasun.

Lou later then learned why: each morning Josephine wakes Karen by singing You are my sunshine / My only sunshine.

Teamwork by staff inspires hope

Lou also observes the quality care because of good teamwork at Orchard Path, something he can uniquely appreciate. Working in HR all this life, he served on a variety of boards and for nearly 8 years reported directly to Governor Arnie Carlson.

Lou reflects, “I’ve also found that when you’re working with people, some people can do a great job of figuring out why something’s not going to work. That’s okay. But I don’t want you to waste time telling me why it can’t work. I want to take that same time and energy to figure out how to make it work.

“I don’t need to look in the mirror or stare in the mirror,” he continues. “I’ll look at the mirror as guidance, but we’re gonna look down the road, not behind us.

“That’s kind of the attitude that I find works best with, for example, Karen. Because you have to hang onto every good moment that you can.

“When Karen had her stroke, I realized that everything we had planned on was down the drain. So, what do you do? You can either sit there and lament about it and say ‘Oh God, you shouldn’t have treated me this way.’ Or you pick up the pieces and say, ‘Okay, let’s go on.’

“And that’s the attitude in many ways that I’ve seen here,” Lou concludes.

“When the pandemic hit, you could see the consternation of the staff [thinking], ‘I’m not sure what we should do or can do.’ Nobody knew what to do; there was no guidance out there. So, everyone pitched in and supported one another.”

Confidence to thrive in community

Such loving, skillful care for Karen gives Lou the confidence he needs to focus each day on thriving just the same. Building friendships is key.

Lou relates the following story from warmer days at Cobblestone Lake, just beyond the back doors of Orchard Path:

“I’ve developed what I consider to be some very good friends here. One especially close friend is Bob — he just turned 100. He and I, what we would do, every night, weather permitting, we’d both get in our little electric scooters, and we’d go down to the boat landing out here. Bob has macular degeneration and he has a very hard time [seeing], so he was learning how to identify various birds by listening to them.

“On my scooter I have taillights that are very bright. So, Bob could follow my taillights. And then we’d come back up after dark, which we shouldn’t have. But it’s interesting, somebody said once, ‘What do you guys talk about down there?’ There are times we don’t talk. We just sit there. And I’ll say, ‘Hey Bob, can you hear that?’ and he’ll say ‘Yeah,’ and we discuss what bird that would be. He’s really an inspiration.”

Considering a change, but not sure where to start? If you’re exploring care options for yourself or a loved one, go to Find a Community. Ready with questions? Connect with a Housing Counselor today.

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