Foster homes mean stability, opportunities for those who require careMOORHEAD – Laurie Harmon never dreamed she would live in a foster home. But after the 48-year-old suffered multiple brain injuries as a child, adult foster care became the best option.
By: Josie Clarey, INFORUM
MOORHEAD – Laurie Harmon never dreamed she would live in a foster home.
But after the 48-year-old suffered multiple brain injuries as a child, adult foster care became the best option.
At age 11, Harmon was shot in the head with an arrow. Although she’s high-functioning with her injury, she does require help with regulating money and time.
“Without that structure, because of my brain injury, I couldn’t function in daily life at all,” she said.
In 2007, Harmon moved in with Deb and Dave Soland, adult foster care providers for Clay County.
“I could have been put into a group home or institute or retirement home, which wouldn’t have been the right choice because I can still do things for myself,” she said.
Harmon said the biggest challenge she struggles with since receiving her injury is impulsivity, especially when it comes to shopping.
She recalled a shopping incident in which she only had $30 to spend but filled her cart with more than $100 worth of items, not realizing how much she was about to spend.
“We have to go shop with (note) cards and on a budget, and we have to have a list ahead of time, and we don’t waver,” Deb said.
Additionally, due to her brain injury, Harmon lost the ability to regulate time.
“I would get up and sit and knit and watch movies for hours,” she said. “I can do that all day.”
Through assistance, she’s learned to set timers.
The Solands said Harmon made a good adjustment to their home.
“We understand her disability, but we don’t hold it against her,” Dave said. “We know she had an accident, but we want to support her and for her to have a full life.”
‘The structure of home’
From Harmon’s perspective, she’s just happy to have her own room and her own bed, with no worries about theft or other concerns.
“To have the structure of home, people that love their family, good people that aren’t going to use me, it’s hard in this world when you can’t see the red flags,” she said. “It’s nice to be treated like a person. This is my home.”
Living with the Solands has also opened the door for opportunities she might not have had in other situations.
Harmon has volunteered at the Moorhead Public Library and currently works through Productive Alternatives, an organization that provides work opportunities for people with disabilities.
Being involved in the community has been a blessing for her, she said.
“I’ve been a hard worker all my life,” Harmon said.
Other unforeseen benefits include exposure to the Soland family and becoming a part of their life.
Deb and Dave baby-sit their own grandchildren a few days throughout the week, something they said is beneficial for the clients.
“Little things like that are really important, to try and do things as a family,” Dave said.
And that’s exactly what their job is all about, Deb said – to support their lives and let their clients be individuals.
“Just like any family would be,” Dave said. “They are our family. We all live under the same roof.”
Like her care providers, Harmon said most people don’t know about or understand adult foster care, or even what it’s like to have a disability.
“When I’ve been out working or just visiting with someone and I tell them I live in an adult foster home, they’re like, ‘I’ve never heard of those,’ ” she said.
And with the ability to take three more people in, Deb and Dave said word of mouth has helped spread awareness, and Harmon is just as excited to get a new roommate.
“It’s nice to be treated like a real person, not a number,” she said. “This is a perfect fit for me.”
From house to home
For three women in Moorhead, a nursing home or assisted living was not an option.
Edith, Myrna and Jean live with Lynn and Gary Brach, adult foster care providers in Clay County.
The Forum agreed to a request by the three women to not publish their last names due to their sensitive health conditions.
All in their 90s and all battling with either Alzheimer’s or dementia, the women spend their time in the Brach home in south Moorhead.
“I don’t keep track of time; I just let everything go day by day,” said Edith, 91, of her three years with the Brachs.
Myrna said she’s glad to live independently of her family.
“I liked the idea that I didn’t have to park myself on one of my kids, because I feel like they should have their own life and not be responsible for me,” the 92-year-old said.
Even so, Myrna said her daughters visit several times a week.
The Brachs said family plays a big role in the lives of their clients.
“Some families are here almost every day,” Lynn said. “So family is very involved, just as if they were living in their own home. They (families) know that they’re (clients) being monitored day and night, so they don’t have to do that; they can just come and go.”
On the other hand, Gary said some families have a hard time visiting because it’s difficult to see their mom battling with health issues.
“We hope that because it’s in a home, instead of a sterile setting, that they’re more comfortable coming here,” he said.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Josie Clarey at (701) 241-5529