Providence House and Guthrie Cottages in Guthrie provides a caring place to live with dignity and respect for residents living with intellectual disabilities, says Karen Vandegrift, LPN, DON.

by James Coburn – staff writer

Parents may worry that if they pass away, where their son or daughter living with intellectual disabilities would live.
Providence House and Guthrie Cottages (Faye’s Place), located on a 3-acre site in west Guthrie, helps to comfort families’ anxieties, said Karen Vandegrift, LPN, and director of nurses.
“It’s truly heartwarming. I get more hugs than I’ve seen in my entire life,” Vandegrift said.
The campus homes specialize in the care of persons living with intellectual disabilities. Faye’s Place is for residents who need more help with activities while Providence House cares for the residents who are more independent.
Both the cottages and Providence House are separated by a fire wall, and both have 16 rooms with two beds each. Knowing that parents and families trust Providence House and Faye’s Place to care for their loved ones is phenomenal, Vandegrift said. (story continues below)

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“They thank us every day. But it’s not us, it’s us thanking them for letting us take care of their kids,” Vandegrift said. “We range in age here from 27 to about 72. We had one mom come in and she wasn’t doing well. She wanted us to care for her baby son. She was really worried about what was going to happen to him when she passed away.”
The residents are unselfish and kind. But they can get angry just like anyone else. However, they calm down once they realize a staff member is there to help them at that moment.
“I have definitely learned I have a lot more patience,” she said of what she has learned during her tenure at Providence House and the cottages. “You have got to have patience because you can ask someone 10 times, ‘Will you please go and change your shirt?’” she said.
Before coming to Providence House, Vandegrift didn’t pay attention to how many people in society are intellectually disabled.
“But since I started working here, I notice more. This weekend I went to a fundraiser they were having in Okarche with a facility up there. And I was just amazed.”
There was a time in society when the intellectually disabled were placed in insane asylums and not treated well, Vandegrift said.
“To help them live their lives and live their life in full — they all have jobs — they work to recycle. We have a little outback where they shred paper,” she continued.
They launder clothing and work in a thrift shop. Residents may work Monday through Friday and receive a paycheck. Newer residents usually ask for a picture of them receiving their first paycheck to show their brother or sister just to let them know of their accomplishment in earning money.
Vandegrift is on call 24 hours a day. She has been a licensed practical nurse for 30 years since she graduated from Meridian Technology Center, located in Stillwater. Her nursing experience includes 22 years of long-term care. When Colonial Estates in Guthrie closed eight years ago, she and the current administrator, Clara Duehning, of Providence House and Guthrie Cottages were recruited to work there.
“Once they realized we were going to be a stable part and we were really going to make some changes and get them to trust us, it became really nice,” Vandegrift said.
The two women have worked with the residents to understand money management with each penny and dime, especially if they ever venture out in the community.
“They call Clara, Money Mama, because she takes care of everyone’s money,” she added.
There are consequences to every choice people make in life. So, Vandegrift emphasizes the consequences of the residents’ choices if they go to a public setting.
“They need to know how to manage their money,” she said. “And our big thing is wants and needs.”
Developmentally disabled direct care aides are certified to work with the developmentally disabled. An LPN works part time at the facility and does double duty on weekends.
“She does a marvelous job at Valley Hope in Cushing. But she does fill in, when need be,” Vandegrift explained.
A quality improvement specialist (QIS) is available for monitoring the developmental disabilities program for compliance and quality of care. Long-term care CNAs and certified medicine aides serve there to respond to residents’ needs. All the residents’ medications are locked within their rooms.
“We do all of our cooking here with the assistance of residents. And we do all our housekeeping with the assistance of the residents,” she said. “It’s just one big family here. Some of the guys will call you mom because they haven’t seen their mom in a long time.”
The state recently inspected Providence House and the cottages and scored them with zero deficiencies.
“It’s very, very exciting when you go through a state survey,” Vandegrift said.
For more information about Providence House and Guthrie Cottages (Faye’s Place), visit: