Shared Living, Meaningful Life


Moving away from mom and dad is a common next step for many of us.  For adults with disabilities, leaving home requires a bit more planning.  A new program in South Dakota could help make tough decisions easier for local families.  An area mother and daughter already think Shared Living may be a good option for them in the future. 

“Ready set go,” Deb Docken said to her daughter, Patricia, as Patricia spilled a cup full of dice onto their kitchen table. 

The duo are playing Yahtzee. It is one of the games Patricia loves. The 27-year-old lives for any type of friendly competition.  Even if you have only known Patricia for a few minutes, she makes you feel like you are right at home. I learned that when she invited me, someone who admittedly does not remember any of the rules to Yahtzee, to join in on the fun.

“She’s a very outgoing individual.  She loves people,” Deb said. 

No matter how the dice land, Deb always feels lucky to spend this time with her daughter. 

“We try to find things we both enjoy doing and so it’s very special to me to get to do things together,” Deb said. 

Patricia was born with intellectual disabilities.  Doctors did not expect her to ever walk or even survive. She beat those odds. 

“She’s very healthy and leads a very meaningful life,” Deb said. 

Deb wants to make sure that never changes. 

“As a parent, one of the thoughts you have is I need to outlive my child by one day, because I need to be there to provide the supports; to provide the care,” Deb said. 

Deb has more peace of mind, thanks to a new program from Resources for Human Development South Dakota called Shared Living.  It will be an option for Patricia when Deb and her husband are no longer able to care for her. 

“Patricia’s used to living in a family home and used to that type of environment,” Kelli Anderson, RHD Director, said. 

Shared Living matches families or individuals with men and women who have developmental or intellectual disabilities.  Instead of going to a facility, Patricia would live with a family who has agreed to welcome her in. 

“The individual would move in with them.  They would essentially become part of a family unit, and — you know — go to birthday parties, and Christmas with an extended family,” Anderson said. 

Deb thinks this would be the best option for her daughter, based on what Patricia likes and needs. 

“Matching them with an individual or with a family that has the same interests, the same kind of family history that that person maybe had.  And that really creates a shared living experience,” Deb said. 

The program is fairly new, and looking for providers.  You do need to qualify and pass a criminal background check.  You can learn more about the program at RHD’s website.  Deb is grateful to have the Shared Living Program as an option, because it makes her feel like she does not have to roll the dice and take a chance with Patricia’s future. 

“People have unlimited potential, and whatever that looks like for that person or individual is important and that creates a meaningful life for them,’ Docken said. 

Even when this place is no longer a full house, this mother knows her beloved daughter will always have a home. 

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