WESTON, Wis. (WSAW) - Siblings Sara Helmer and Mark Michlig understand why they can’t visit their mother, Carol like they normally would while she is living at the Rennes Health and Rehab Center in Weston. Like most nursing homes and assisted living facilities, Rennes isn’t allowing in-person visits during the COVID-19 outbreak to help protect both the people living there and the staff.
Mark Michlig and Sara Helmer hold up the signs made for their mother at Rennes Health and Rehab Center in Weston. (WSAW photo 3/19/20)
“We are really focused on following the guidelines of the CDC and DHS,” explained Vikki Baumler, the public information officer at Rennes. “The data shows that this virus is extremely dangerous for the elderly and people with extreme health conditions. The best thing we can do is try to keep visitors out of the building and prevent the virus from ever entering our facility.”
Instead of choosing to just call or Facetime their mother, Helmer and Michlig got creative.
“The idea of saying ‘Hello’ in a different way and making light of putting a little humor in this,” said Michlig. “My mom is restricted to her bed, so going to her window with a sign that says ‘Good morning’ or ‘I love you’ or ‘Hi Mom’ was a surprise for her.”
Helmer agrees, crediting her brother with coming up with the idea.
“She loves it,” Helmer said. “The first time we went there, she cried because we didn’t tell her. We went up there and knocked on the window and she loved the signs, and she was crying, and she just loved it, talking on the phone so we talked on the phone for a few minutes and sat out there.”
It has become a daily tradition for the brother and sister duo to visit their mother from outside her window, with other residents and staff members taking notice.
“It’s definitely meant a lot to our residents and our staff,” said Katie McMahon, activities director at Rennes. “Anything positive right now is just really nice to see.
While Michlig and Helmer aren’t sure when they’ll be able to go inside and sit with their mother again, they’re happy that they can still see her, and show her how much they love her, through the window.
“We’re just adults being children,” Michlig beamed. “This is a way of expressing our love for my mother and all the residents that are here. Hopefully, they get some attention, too.”
“A big thank you to the nurses and the staff here,” Helmer added. “We totally appreciate everything they do for all the residents here.”