SALT LAKE CITY – Veterans in nursing homes, over 400 of them in four different state-run nursing homes in Utah, may feel isolated after more than 10 weeks of pandemic-related social distancing. With Memorial Day nearly here, the people who run those facilities are looking for a creative way to honor these brave veterans.
Happiness for Heroes
The Utah Department of Veterans and Military Affairs launched a program they call Happiness for Heroes. They spoke with KSL-TV about the program.
“This is a way that we wanted to reach out to honor those veterans who live in our four homes, and reach to them because obviously they haven’t been able to be with their family members,” said Gary Harter, executive director of the Utah Department of Veterans & Military Affairs.
They are calling on all of us to send video messages of comfort, support, and appreciation to our veterans to let them know they are not alone. These video messages will go to the state’s nursing homes in Ogden, Salt Lake City, Payson, and Ivins.
Messages are already coming in.
The isolation and its challenges
Residents who depend on visitors for companionship may feel isolated in the midst of the pandemic.
“Some come in every day to visit their loved ones. As of March 12, that’s all shut down,” said Jeff Hanson, deputy director of facilities for the Utah Department of Veterans & Military Affairs.
“It’s kind of a two-edged sword,” said Hanson. “We protect them, but then it challenges them socially not to have that interaction that they are used to having.”
Not only have the veterans not been able to have outside visitors, they have not been able to visit each other or have meals together. Caregivers at the homes are concerned about the emotional toll this isolation is taking on the veterans.
When they do leave their rooms they must wear a mask and keep their distance from one another.
“So, it’s been extremely challenging, and the beauty of this program is that it reconnects the veterans back with the community, which is good for their overall health,” Hanson said.
How to get involved
You can simply go to veterans.Utah.gov and upload a message to the veterans. You can get as creative or elaborate as you wish. The Utah Department of Veterans & Military Affairs encourages you to get your kids involved as well. You can also post with the hashtag #happinessforheros
The facilities plan to play the messages for the veterans as they come in.
How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus
COVID-19 coronavirus spreads person to person. It is a virus that is similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading:
- Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
- Don’t touch your face.
- Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet)
- If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities.)
- Get a flu shot.
Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707
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