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GT Community: Dave & Kathy of Michigan

February 16, 2023

GT Community: Dave & Kathy of Michigan

We value making space for the people we serve to tell their own stories. This is the story of Dave and Kathy from Michigan. They started self-direction with GT in 2016. In this post, you can hear about their experience in their own words.

Meet Dave & Kathy

Dave DeBoer met Kathy Melone over twenty years ago at a bar called The KEG. She was waiting tables and Dave thought she was “absolutely smoking gorgeous.”

Over the course of many years, their friendship evolved into something more. Dave is currently Kathy’s significant other and also her legal guardian.

Kathy, seated on a large sofa with a 1970's pattern, is smiling at the camera. Her blonde hair is in a fashionable 1980's style, with bangs and large waves. She's wearing a white blouse and blue jeans.
Dave and Kathy are sitting together in the back of a vintage buggy. Off-screen is the horse and driver. They're both smiling at the camera.

A Rare Diagnosis

Kathy has Huntington’s Disease, which causes the breakdown of nerve cells in the brain. It runs in families, and in Kathy’s case, her mom also had the condition. Some of the most common symptoms are movement disorders such as jerking and muscle contracture. Many people also have cognitive impairment as the disease progresses. Huntington’s can be managed with medicine and therapies, but there is no cure. Fewer than 200,000 people in the US have this condition.

When the symptoms first started, Kathy didn’t want to believe she had Huntington’s. But by the time she had genetic testing done and it was confirmed, she took it in stride.

Self-Direction Helps Kathy

Self-direction makes it possible for Kathy to live at home and get the level of care she needs. Dave has been able to hire people he trusts to help Kathy.

Kathy’s journey hasn’t been without challenges. The door to their house needed to be widened to allow for her chair. They also needed a ramp installed to help Kathy in and out of the house. And, they needed to get a special van that could accommodate her.

But, one thing that has made life easier is being able to hire their own staff. Some of Kathy’s care providers include her own daughters. Choosing their own staff has allowed Dave to focus more on Kathy’s quality of life and treatments. It also allows Dave and Kathy to spend more time together, doing things they love, like taking walks in the park.

Kathy is in her wheelchair which is being pushed on a paved path through the park by her daughter, Torri. Dave is walking next to the wheelchair. He is holding Kathy's hand with one of his own, and their dog's leash with the other. The dog is walking happily beside Dave. It is a sunny summer day.

I know for a fact that Kathy is alive today because of the time she’s been able to spend at home.

Dave Deboer

Learn More About How GT Independence Can Help You

With self-direction, you have the right to live the life you choose—regardless of age or ability—in your own home or community. At GT Independence, our job is to help make self-direction easy.

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