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Nursing home visitation limit prompts Carbondale woman’s campaign sharing message about social distancing

Senior living residents learning to cope

Heather Bryan visits with her mother, Judy Mackay, through a window at Heritage Park Care Center in Carbondale. Bryan has created special "Commit to 6 Feet" pins to remind people to maintain safe social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic.
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Photos of family visits through nursing home windows are everywhere these days — in newspapers, on television and via social media.

But one Carbondale resident and business owner decided to take her family’s experience as an opportunity to send a friendly message about the importance of social distancing. 

Heather Bryan’s mother, Judy Mackay, moved into Heritage Park Care Center in Carbondale in January, just weeks before in-person visits were prohibited due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Keeping the novel coronavirus out of nursing homes, assisted living centers, senior housing and hospitals, and away from the most vulnerable populations, has been extra challenging — limiting families to video or phone chats, or that now emblematic “face-to-face” greeting through the window.

Bryan took the cue and decided to come up with a fun way to remind people to keep their distance from one another and help them understand the necessity of it all.

The owner of Jupiter Engraving, a startup venture through Carbondale’s Coventure, Bryan is normally busy designing commemorative pins for stadiums, golf courses and other sporting venues.

With most of her accounts suspended during the business shutdowns that resulted from the pandemic, she decided to innovate.

She created a special “6-ft” pin for people to wear, as a reminder to maintain safe social distancing and prevent the spread of the virus. She launched http://www.committo6ft.com to share her message and take pin orders.

   

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“We visit mom at the window every day, and just try to make her laugh,” Bryan said.

Through her pin project, she said, “I commit for my mom.”

The spark for the idea came in trying to explain to her elementary school children the importance of social distancing.

“It’s a hard concept for kids, or anyone who’s used to being social,” she said. “The pin makes it personal, and it’s just a nice reminder to social distance.” 

All proceeds from the pin sales are being donated to World Vision to help distribute life-sustaining supplies during the global pandemic, such as food, personal hygiene products and clean water.

For every five pins purchased, a special red pin is donated to a healthcare worker. The regular pins come in gold, silver and bronze.

Bryan also has a dedicated Facebook page.

“I just think about movie theaters and restaurants when they reopen, and any place where there might be a lot of people — it’s just a good reminder to wear one of these,” she said.  

STAYING IN, BUT STAYING SAFE 

Staying in — and keeping visitors from the general population out — has become a way of life as well for many normally active senior citizens living in the various senior housing and assisted living facilities in Garfield County.

Private residential communities, such as Renew Roaring Fork assisted living, memory care and respite care, have asked residents to not leave the grounds and don’t allow visitors while the public health restrictions are in place.

“We’re essentially confined to our rooms, but they did open up the dining room last week,” Renew resident Hal Sundin said. “We sit one person to a table, and nobody is allowed to exit.”

Prior to the dining room opening, residents were having their meals delivered to their apartments, he said. 

“We’re pretty much isolated from the outside world, which isn’t really a bad thing,” Sundin said. “We can still walk the halls and go out on the deck outside the dining room, so we do get outside the building if we want.”

Carleton “Hub” Hubbard also lives at Renew with his wife, Mim.

“They treat us good, and the food is good,” Hubbard said. “We’re all safe and healthy, so that’s been a good thing.” 

Hubbard said he’s been doing a lot of reading, getting out of the apartment for walks on occasion, and “probably sleeping too much, which is easy to do.”

They did have one “window visitor” when their daughter came by to say “hi,” and they’ve had video visits with their new great-grandtriplets in Casper, Wyoming, and another great-grandchild in Montana. 

Senior housing run by the Garfield County Housing Authority and those administered under the U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) program also have rules around visitations and use of common areas, which are closed.

The Monroe Group, which manages the Manors I and Manors II HUD apartments in Glenwood Springs has closed its on-site offices and all common areas. Residents are asked to stay in their apartments, except for essential needs, and to refrain from gathering in groups.

jstroud@postindependent.com


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