Retirement community allowing in-person visits thanks to ‘visitation station’


WILDWOOD, Mo. – Amid all the grim coronavirus news in recent weeks, FOX 2 has found a bright spot. A woman’s idea to allow in-person visits at area nursing homes for the first time in 8 months is now a reality.

“Most people go home to their families and loved ones every night,” said Kimberly Wyatt, administrator for Ballwin Ridge Health & Rehabilitation. “They take (it) for granted. There are others who don’t get to see their families because of the COVID situation. [It’s very tough] Especially with the holidays coming.”

For the staff, it was like unwrapping a Christmas present on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. The home’s new visitation station had arrived.

A worker for Reach LTC, which owns 17 care homes across Missouri, shared her sketch of an idea for a spot to allow in-person visits with someone at Lowe’s. The rudimentary sketch suggested a spot you could decorate for holidays, with stockings over a fireplace, for instance.

“(The Lowe’s worker) took my design and built a prototype in her spare time over a weekend and said, ‘what do you think?’ I about cried because it was beautiful,” said Jen Ryan Galantowicz of Reach LTC, who came up with the sketch. “They just really knocked it out of the park. Then they told me they had the capacity and wanted to use it as part of their ‘Lowe’s Heroes’ Project.”

Lowe’s workers are now building and delivering a custom visitation station for all 17 Reach LTC care homes in Missouri. The plan is to use them right away, starting with outdoor visits during mild weather.

The 42 residents at Ballwin Ridge have been waiting for something like this since March.

“It feels so much better than talking on the phone…to be able to sit here and actually see you and see your expressions as you talk, it’s just so heartwarming,” Galantowicz said.

“We will have a waiting list because it is going to have be scheduled, monitored, and sanitized between visits…we’re going to put a little Christmas tree in there. It will be awesome,” Wyatt beamed.

Workers also plan to use them for indoor visits wherever and whenever those are allowed again under state and local restrictions.

They won’t be allowed on Thanksgiving, just two days away.

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