Personal Story

35th Anniversary Edition

John’s Life Today: Still Growing


Susan O’Nell is director of curriculum development for the Research and Training Center on Community Living’s DirectCourse program at the Institute on Community Integration, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. She may be reached at

John Daly recently moved to a group home in Richfield, Minnesota.

A woman with long dark hair wearing glasses and a pink shirt stands with a man in a wheelchair wearing a cap and a blue shirt.

Daly and Susan O’Nell wrote a 2016 Impact article about staff support.

Seven years after John and Susan wrote an article for the Feature Issue on Person-Centered Supports, they got together for another conversation about what has changed in John’s life. They are still in each other’s lives, and Susan continues to support John with medical and service decisions.

Susan: Are there things that have changed since the last article that you want to share?

John: Yes, when I lived where Ann and Bill worked, I and some others, we went for rides, and sometimes with just Ann and me, too. So, I would see deer, bucks or does.

Susan: Do you still live in the same place you did when we wrote that last article?

John: I’ve moved.

Susan: Why did you move?

John: Because of hollering and stealing. One [roommate] liked to steal and the one liked to holler.

Susan: So, you didn’t like living there, with that going on?

John: No. No. So, I moved here [to a new group home], they like me here. My room, it’s small but I love it.

Susan: I think the other thing is, you are using a wheelchair to get around now. Since that article, you have had a number of hospitalizations for your health. A lot of times you are in the hospital or nursing home for many weeks in a row. It makes it hard for you to stay mobile. In fact, the last time COVID-19 was raging and they had you all isolating, so physical therapy was minimal. Right now, you are using a wheelchair to get around and this home is accessible.

John: They’ve got ramps.

Susan: What else has changed. How do you like living in this part of town?

John: I love it.

Susan: What do you do when you go out?

John: I like to eat, I like to go places.

Susan: What have you done lately? [Pointing to a notebook] I see you are writing a lot.

John: Yes, and I like to look at this book.

Susan: Overall how are things going for you here?

John: Great, we have a garden here. Oh yeah, and we’ll be eating outside at the picnic table when the spring and summer and fall comes. [John has only been in his new home in winter.]

Susan: What kinds of things will you all grow?

John: Squash, tomatoes, cucumbers,

A man in a wheelchair wearing a Minnesota Twins baseball cap and t-shirt talks with a woman, who is standing on his back patio.

John Daly talks with Anna Nolan in early springtime about what they’ll plant on the deck of John’s new group home.

Susan: So, while we are talking about what makes for a good living arrangement for you John, it seems like it’s about the space, the staff and who you live with.

John: 100%.

Susan: Are you doing okay with it right now?

John: Jay and I really get along together. We do knuckles and say ouch! He’s a great guy.

Susan: What are you looking forward to right now?

John: Getting out of my chair. And standing too.

Susan: What are you working on to make that happen?

John: Standing 40 times, 50 and 60 with no hands mostly every day. I’m getting stronger.

Susan: I am really looking forward to you being able to walk on your own.

John: Me too.

Susan: Are you liking the staff?

John: They’re great. They take me places. They make good meals. They like to talk to me.

Susan: That sounds really good John! Sounds like this was the right move for you right now. As we’ve been talking, I’ve been thinking about how important it is to have family and friends in life. Even though service providers care, they can’t stitch everything together in the same ways as family or friend relationships do. But I’m also struck by how incredibly important it is to have good staff and how many good staff there are out there. Sometimes we forget that in all the crises and problems. It’s up to all of us to make sure that folks are appreciated and recognized.

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