LIBERTY, Mo. — Visitation stations are allowing residents of long-term care facilities in Missouri to visit in-person with loved ones for the first time since the pandemic began.
It started as an idea by Jen Ryan Galantowicz, vice president of branding and strategic engagement for Reach LTC, which owns 17 long-term care facilities across Missouri.
Galantowicz said the company was trying to come up with ways for residents to get to visit with loved ones. She drew a sketch of what she envisioned a visitation station to look like, using wood and Plexiglass.
Galantowicz messaged the idea to Lowe's to get feedback on how to make it happen. To her surprise, the company offered to build and deliver all 17 of the stations as part of its Lowe's Heroes project.
"I was speechless, and I am not a speechless person," Galantowicz said.
Hannibal store manager Jen Ingle said the store had been looking for a perfect fit for its heroes project. More than 30 Lowe's locations across Missouri were involved in building the stations, which came out to about $1,000 apiece.
Workers have been delivering the stations to facilities in Missouri since November. Ashton Court Care and Rehabilitation Center in Liberty, Missouri, received its station recently.
Admissions coordinator Kristen Thomas said the projects will help with higher levels of depression among residents.
"This has been horrible on the residents and their families, that's why this is such a big deal," Thomas said. "Some of them can't comprehend the pandemic so they don't understand why their family isn't here, so this is going to give them a chance to not have to understand and they can still see them."
Thomas said the facility has been working hard to keep residents busy with activities in their rooms, but the isolation is taking a toll.
Resident Mary Jesse said she's looking forward to using the station to visit with her son and grandchildren. Jesse has been communicating with them using video technology but says it isn't the same as being in-person.
"It's good to hear his voice, and it's good I can talk to him, but that's not like seeing him and giving him and a hug and telling him I love him," Jesse said.
Ingle watched as residents in St. Louis used the first station to visit with family members.
"They hadn't seen each other for eight months," Ingle said. "It moves you in a way to where you think, 'oh my gosh, I couldn't imagine not seeing my family for eight months.'"
Galantowicz said she was blown away when Lowe's offered to build the stations and deliver them.
"It was like a dream come true to see my little elementary sketch all of a sudden live and in person and just beautiful," Galantowicz said.
Workers went the extra mile to add in some Christmas flare to create a cozy fireside chat environment.
Ingle said the idea has snowballed and is being picked up by other long-term care facilities in Missouri.
"We've made a spec sheet here at the store so local folks that want to build one of these for maybe a local business or their family have the ability to get the instruction sheet and the material list," Ingle said.
Ashton Care is already working on scheduling appointments so residents can look forward to seeing loved ones in-person again.
"From the bottom of our hearts, on behalf of our residents and their families, this is greatly appreciated," Thomas said.