by Bill Batson
On Wednesday, March 11, I showed up at Nyack Ridge Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, with flowers for my mother, Daisy. That same day, a world away in Geneva, Switzerland, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. The notice on the door that greeted me brought home our new reality: “out of an abundance of caution, all visitations are restricted.”
Millions of Americans who have a family member in assisted living or residential medical care confronted a similar note. The science tells us that these measures can #flattenthecurve of this infection, saving lives. But they also make the soul ache.
Many institutions have employed technology to shorten the gap created by social distancing. I recently got to Facetime with my mother. I could see in her expression that she enjoyed her first journey into cyberspace!
I asked Nyack Ridge owner Michael Braunstein if anything in his personal or professional life prepared him for these trying times. “Living through 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy gave us a sense of what can happen out of the clear blue sky. Until then, we don’t know our capabilities. Everyday, I’m learning how amazing our staff and your aides are. But the real priority right now is to protect our residents and staff, which is something our administrator, our director of nursing and our medical director are accomplishing.”
Braunstein is a third generation nursing home operator. His grandfather bought a Nursing Home in the Bronx in 1956, serving as administrator. His grandmother was the cook. As a self-described nursing home brat, Michael would play bingo with the residents and serve tea. When Michael graduated from college, he took a position at a nursing home owned by his father, who had followed his father into the family business. “From those early years, I’ve learned that it’s important to communicate with the staff and residents. To try to understand what their needs are. For the residents, this is their home. You want to make them as comfortable as possible,” Braunstein said.
Village of Nyack Mayor Don Hammond can recite from memory the various events and local programs that Nyack Ridge is actively supporting. “Michael is a very impressive corporate citizen, said Mayor Hammond. “He didn’t call up and asked what we could do for Nyack Ridge. He called me to ask what they could do for the community.”
Braunstein has noted that the character of Nyack Ridge is shaped by a staff that includes members that have reported to work for decades. The facility manager and one of the receptionists has been on the job since the 1970s. At Nyack Ridge a staff of approximately 200 men and women work tirelessly to provide health care, food, housing and recreation up to 160 residents.
Braunstein reports that spirits at Nyack Ridge are high during the pandemic induced lockdown. “The residents are doing fine. Really well. They are little antsy. They miss their families. But we are doing our best. We are keeping them busy and entertained in settings that observe social distancing. We’ve developed hallway bingo and have a busy hand cart that goes room to room. We are keeping their thought’s positive and using Ipads to keep them in touch with their loved ones.”
Since taking the helm of Nyack Ridge in January 2018, Braunstein has built strong ties to the community. Nyack Ridge has sponsored multiple events including the Great Nyack Get-Together, The African American Day Parade, and a breast health awareness fashion show with Montefiore Nyack Hospital. Nyack Ridge also supports the Edward Hopper House Museum and Study Center, the Nyack Chamber of Commerce and Nyack football. Drawing on these networks, Braunstein has engaged some local artists to project a movie on an inflatable screen in the parking lot to break the monotony of the lockdown.
“We are all in this together. With god’s help and prayer, we will all get through this. We’ll see our families reunited.”
Godspeed and Amen that!
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If you would like to help boost the spirit of the residents, send a short video greeting to the Director of Recreation, Marleny Liz at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have a family member staying at Nyack Ridge and you want to schedule a Facetime chat, call Liz at (914) 536-5383.
Nyack Ridge Rehabilitation and Nursing Center is located at 476 Christian Herald Road, Valley Cottage. To learn more click here.
Bill Batson is an artist and writer who lives and sketches in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: “Nyack Ridge during COVIC-19” © 2020 Bill Batson. To see more, visit billbatsonarts.com