‘Where God is’: Caring for Disabled Brings Struggles, Joys

shared courtesy of MPR News

Cat McNamara looks into the eyes of Sarah Gonella at the Diane Road Group Home in Mendota Heights the morning of June 21, 2017. Gonella, who has had physical and intellectual disabilities since infancy, also suffers from epilepsy.Evan Frost | MPR News


MENDOTA HEIGHTS, Minnesota — The morning routine for the six people living at the Diane Road Group Home is a lot like yours. They get out of bed, get dressed, have their teeth brushed and eat breakfast, then get on the bus to work.

Before the bus comes, though, there are medicines that must be prepared, wheelchairs moved and breakfasts made. It’s work that falls to the group home’s caregivers, and each day, it seems, a new challenge tests them.

One day, something wasn’t right with Sarah Gonella. Caregiver Cat McNamara, 35, held her up as she walked her from her room to the breakfast table. Gonella fixed her gaze on the ceiling as direct support professional Rosie Moriarty tried to shift her attention to a plate of sausage and French toast.

“Her eyes are, like, crossing,” McNamara said. “Let me observe her, maybe she’s having a seizure,” Moriarty responded.

The caregiver team adjusted quickly. One scanned Gonella’s file and prepared the right medication as the house’s other two attendants kept a close eye on her while getting everyone else ready. Gonella, 32, stayed at home, sick.

The scene that morning captured — in a few moments — the daily life of a group home caregiver. They play vital roles helping people with disabilities live as independently as possible.

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