Pods create safe way for family and friends to visit Frasier Retirement Community residents in wake of pandemic

  • Frasier senior living resident Roberta Nalley, right, talks with fellow resident Barbara Hanst while visiting behind a protective plexiglass barrier at the Frasier senior living complex on Wednesday in Boulder. The two residents have not seen each other since early March due to coronavirus restrictions put in place to protect the residents from exposure. (Jeremy Papasso/Staff Photographer)

  • Frasier senior living resident Barbara Handler, right, talks with her daughter Nina Handler Asnes while visiting behind a protective plexiglass barrier at the Frasier senior living complex on Wednesday in Boulder. (Jeremy Papasso/Staff Photographer)

  • Frasier senior living residents Roberta Nalley, right, and her friend Barbara Hanst chat while visiting behind a protective barrier at the Frasier senior living complex on Wednesday, June 17, 2020 in Boulder. The two friend live in seperate areas of Frasier and have not seen each other since early March due to Coronavirus restrictions. (Jeremy Papasso/Staff Photographer)

  • Frasier senior living residents Roberta Nalley, left, talks with Barbara Hanst while visiting behind a protective barrier at the Frasier senior living complex on Wednesday, June 17, 2020 in Boulder. (Jeremy Papasso/Staff Photographer)

  • Frasier senior living resident Barbara Handler talks with her daughter Nina Handler Asnes, not pictured, while visiting behind a protective barrier at the Frasier senior living complex on Wednesday, June 17, 2020 in Boulder. (Jeremy Papasso/Staff Photographer)

of

Expand
PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:

There was a time when Nina Handler Asnes didn’t know when she would get to see her mom, Barbara Handler, again.

Handler is one of Frasier Retirement Community’s 500 residents who have not been able to receive visitors, participate in group activities or dine together since mid-March, when the Boulder facility put the protocols in place to protect them from the spread of the coronavirus.

But thanks to a partnership with Lakewood-based Pinkard Construction, Frasier can offer a safe way for family and friends to visit their loved ones in long-term care.

Dubbed the “Lov Pod,” three tents with plexiglass walls and comfy chairs have given seniors a chance to visit outside the facility again. The pods are located on the south side of Frasier, 350 Ponca Place, and have been in high demand since they opened in early June. The pods were reserved 13 times Tuesday and five reservations had been booked by Wednesday afternoon.

Megan Thomas, Frasier’s director of assisted living and memory support, said she knows how difficult it has been for seniors to not have regular social connection, which inspired the idea for the pods.

“Our number one concern is safety of our residents and number two is creating connections with their friends and families,” Thomas said. “(We wanted) to be able to create a pod where they were safe and could see their loved ones.”

Frasier’s implementation of a safe visiting area comes at a time when long-term care facilities across the county continue to grapple with the coronavirus. According to Chana Goussetis, spokesperson for Boulder County Public Health, as of this week, five long-term care facilities are dealing with outbreaks. When two or more cases are confirmed in a 14-day period, it is considered an outbreak, according to Goussetis.

This week, Boulder County Public Health reported that long-term care facilities saw six new deaths from the coronavirus.

Frasier is among the Boulder County long-term care facilities that dealt with a coronavirus outbreak in its facility. Boulder County Public Health reported last week that the facility had officially resolved its outbreak. According to state data, there were no deaths at the facility. On June 3, Julie Soltis, Frasier’s director of communications, said that two independent living facility residents tested positive for the virus, but had since recovered.

Frasier senior living resident Barbara Handler, right, talks with her daughter Nina Handler Asnes while visiting behind a protective plexiglass barrier at the Frasier senior living complex on Wednesday in Boulder. (Jeremy Papasso/Staff Photographer)

Boulder County Public Health reported Wednesday that the Boulder County has seen a surge in coronavirus cases in the last week, tying some of the new cases to protests and parties in Boulder’s University Hill neighborhood. With no end to the pandemic in sight, Thomas said the pods may be there to stay for quite some time.

“The families don’t want to put their families at risk, this (the pods) may be a reality,” Thomas said. “This may be a our new normal for awhile.”

While Thomas said many residents have turned to technology to engage with family and friends, “it doesn’t create the same feeling as having your loved one in front of you.” Thomas said it can be especially difficult for people in its memory care unit to process what they are seeing over a screen.

The pods are available for 45-minute reservations, leaving staff a 15-minute window to disinfect the pod and its furniture between each visit.

On Wednesday afternoon, Handler Asnes sat in a pod with her mother. While the two caught up on family news, a pair of walkie talkies with headsets allowed them to hear one another through the plexiglass wall that divided them to protect Handler.

Handler Asnes has used the pods to visit her mother several times since they opened in June. When she thinks back to the first time she was able to see her mom after nearly three months of separation, tears come to her eyes.

“I think I didn’t realize how hard it was (to be apart),” Handler Asnes said. “It’s just been my heart breaking over and over and loving that we can now be together.”

Handler has been a resident at Frasier Meadows Retirement Community’s memory care unit since late 2019. When asked if she has enjoyed getting to see people again, Handler joked, “It depends on who comes around.” Handler added that her daughter, Handler Asnes, is one person she has been “a million percent” delighted to see.

While Handler Asnes kept in touch with her mom over the phone and attempted a few window visits from her mom’s first floor room, it wasn’t the same as being able to sit across from each other face to face. With colorful rugs spread out on the concrete and hanging flowers decorating the pods, Handler Asnes said she felt like she was just talking with her mom outside on the porch.

“Every time I come here, my heart just opens,” Handler Asnes said. “I’m so happy I get to do this, who knows how long it would be before we would be able to visit. … (This is) just some semblance of normalcy.”

Jessica Nichols, the director of marketing for Pinkard Construction, said that the Lakewood-based company has long been a partner with Frasier. The pods were built at no cost to the long-term care facility.

“A large chunk of our business is senior living facilities. We have a huge heart for what it’s like to live in a senior community and we understand this is a situation that can be terribly isolating,” Nichols said. “When these guys came up with this idea, it was an instant no-brainer. Whatever we can do to make this easier.”