Relatives isolated from their loved ones during the coronavirus pandemic have created new ways to connect with those they can’t visit.
Some have gone the modern method by interacting through video and social media, while others have driven past the residences of their loved ones with horns honking and hand-written signs hanging out their car windows.
One Butler County family tried a different approach, and if Wednesday’s initial visit was any indication, another option might soon be possible.
Dick Meyer, 65, and his brother, Joe, 62, former owners of Meyer Brothers and Sons construction company in Hamilton, built a Plexiglas u-shaped partition. They unloaded it off a trailer and wheeled it near the front door of Barrington Of West Chester senior living community where their mother has resided since February, right before Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine closed nursing home facilities to visitors.
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With more than 20 of her relatives all standing outside wearing masks, Virginia “Ginny” Meyer was wheeled out of the nursing home. The contraption allowed Meyer, 95, an opportunity to be closer to many of her family members, some she hadn’t seen in months, while also having a barrier for protection from the virus.
“This is fantastic,” Meyer was heard telling those in attendance.
She has nine children, 26 grandchildren and 40 great-grandchildren.
Her husband, Ray, died 30 years ago, and for the last 15 years she has lived with a daughter in Mason.
The family took turns standing inches away from the Plexiglas, posing for pictures and shooting video.
“It’s pretty cool,” Dick Meyer said.
Since Meyer lives on the third floor of the four-floor unit, Dick Meyer said it was difficult for his mother to see her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, many of whom live in the area.
“This is a way to get close and see her and make her day,” Dick Meyer said. “At least this is a bright spot to the confinement.”
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One day, he said, his mother sat on the balcony, and her family stood on the ground about 50 yards away.
The youngest of Meyer’s nine children, Teresa Walsh, 52, of Mason, cared for her mother for about 15 years until she needed more advanced medical care and moved into Barrington. Since then, she has been unable to visit her mother.
“It’s a gift for all of us,” Walsh said. “This gives us an avenue to see her and know she’s healthy.”
Walsh called her mother “a people person” and worried as her mother wasn’t permitted visitors.
“She was not getting that connection,” Walsh said. “She was missing that human connection. Her family is her life. She is a remarkable woman. This is going to keep her going and give her hope.”
The Meyer family hopes to spread that feeling throughout the retirement village. The family is leaving the partition at the nursing home for other residents and their families to use.
Joe Meyer said his former company, now owned by his son, nephew and another partner, donated about $600 worth of Plexiglas and wood, and it took about three hours to build. The partition is seven feet high, seven feet wide and four feet deep, and it is built on casters that make it easy to move, he said.
“It’s dirt money,” said Joe Meyer, who founded the company in 1978 and saw a similar partition on Facebook.
They expect to receive calls from other nursing facilities interested in having a partition built. Dick Meyer said no one knows when the risks associated with COVID-19 will end and residents and their families can be reconnected.
He hopes the partition helps ease some of the stress associated with the virus.
“It’s a new reality and people are looking for different ways and this is one of them,” he said.
TELLING YOUR STORIES
We’re looking to profile people throughout our coverage area about how the coronavirus is impacting your daily life. If you’re interested in sharing your story about how you’re affected or adapting to the situation, call Journal-News reporter Rick McCrabb at 513-483-5216 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.