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One of the greatest challenges families have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic has been remaining connected while trying to keep both themselves and their loved ones safe.

That has certainly been the case for Ron and Judy and their son Nick, who has been served by Epic Opportunities since 2004.

As a result of restrictions imposed by provincial health authorities, there have been times the couple has been unable to visit their son at his Amber Trails home that he shares with his two roommates. Those restrictions have also meant that weekly family meals together have had to be put on hold at times. So have weekly walks at Kildonan Park and movie nights at the local theatre; and no one is sure when they might be able to resume gathering together at the family cottage in the Whiteshell.

“We’ve always been very connected with Nick. We usually see him two or three times a week. When all the restrictions came down that got shut off at times,” Ron says.

“It was probably even harder on the two of us than Nick in some ways because he’s very much in the moment. But as much as we want to see him, we don’t want to cause any extra stress or anxiety in his household. We just want to keep him safe.”

That concern has prompted Ron and Judy to find creative ways to connect with Nick when they have to remain apart. One such way has been to pick up takeout meals from his favourite restaurants and drop them off at the house for him and his roommates and staff when in-person visits are not permitted.

Prior to the onset of the second wave of the pandemic, Nick and his parents were able to spend some time together as a number of public health restrictions were loosened for a time. That meant being able to have Saturday dinners together and visiting the ducks and geese at Kildonan Park.

But that all came to a halt last November when a staff member at Nick’s home tested positive for COVID-19. A few weeks later Nick and his two roommates also tested positive for the virus, although they all remained asymptomatic. Nick’s parents tested negative but once again had to put in-person visits on hold.

Ron says he and Judy were grateful for how Epic Opportunities staff responded to the situation.

“I was really, really happy with the way Epic was involved in that process and with how they handled it,” he says.

“The staff at Nick’s home are all really chill. In situations like that some people would be tense, but they were always very calm. That tension never seemed to spill over to the people that support Nick. It was very comforting for Judy and me.”

The good news is that Nick and his roommates have now all received their second  vaccine shots. They received their first shots in April at a special clinic set up by Community Living disABILITY Services, a branch of the Manitoba provincial government that provides support to individuals living with an intellectual disability and their families. Their second doses followed using the regular booking process and vaccination sites.  Ron says everything ran like “clockwork” at the clinic and he was impressed with the treatment Nick received.

A big reason why Ron and Judy chose Epic Opportunities to support Nick when they first began to consider the possibility of him moving out on his own was how the organization’s values aligned with their own. The pandemic has only served to confirm their feelings, Ron adds.

“Epic is such a wonderful organization and they have exactly the right mindset for doing all of this stuff. We’re very happy with the environment Nick is in,” he says. “He’s always happy to see us, but he’s always happy to go back to his home too. It makes us feel good that he wants to be home and he is getting the love and support he needs there.”

Ron, who has served on the Epic Opportunities board of directors, says he can’t say enough about the staff at Nick’s home and at the head office and the peace of mind their efforts have provided their family with, especially during recent events.

“I talk to the staff and the home manager all the time, but they should know that the level of support and care they provide to Nick has brought immense comfort to Judy and me.”

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