Faces of the Frontlines: Providing care, finding inspiration at Casey’s Pond
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Co-workers say Melissa Bray, the director of the assisted living center at Casey’s Pond, has demonstrated her leadership with a sense of calmness in what has been a trying time for the staff and residents of the Steamboat Springs senior living community.
“I would have to say she is, without a doubt, a hero,” said Melissa Lahay, director of sales and marketing at Casey’s Pond. “She adapted to the ever-changing guidelines and restrictions. I never once heard her complain. She evaluated the situation, provided a solution and guided her team to implement it.”
Bray started her career as a certified nurse assistant at the Doak Walker Care Center 15 years ago. She went to nursing school to become a registered nurse and was named the assisted living director at Casey’s Pond when Doak Walker moved from the UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical campus to its new home six years ago.
“When I started working, I never thought I would like long-term care but then I fell in love with the residents, their families and the staff,” Bray said. “I realized that is where my heart was and that was where I belonged.”
She views her role of taking care of the residents at Casey’s Pond as a privilege.
“For me, it’s an honor to care for people in their final stage of life, because you get to make sure that their needs are met, that they’re comfortable and that they have someone with them,” Bray said. “I enjoy building relationships with the residents and just getting to know them and their story and their history … they have so much to teach us.”
Bray leads a staff of 40 employees in the assisted care and memory care units at Casey’s Pond. Before the COVID-19 pandemic she spent a lot of time with residents, communicating with families and providing staff education and support when needed.
“Right now, I feel like our focus is on infection prevention,” Bray said. “We are still educating staff and residents and families, but there is a lot more focus specifically on COVID … We are always looking at ways to improve the care that we give.”
This has not been an easy time for Bray, but she has found reasons to be thankful.
“We definitely have an awesome team. Everyone has risen to the occasion,” Bray said. “I think we have a rock star team. It’s just amazing how they’ve all come together to support each other.”
Her biggest inspiration has been the residents.
“Every day the residents are checking in with us, and instead of being worried about their own health, they’re like, ‘Are you guys OK? What can we do for you?’” Bray said. “It’s just a good feeling to know that our residents care just as much about us, as we care for them, and the same for their families.”
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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The pandemic is wearing on a lot of people, especially frontline health care workers like Whittany Keating, a registered nurse at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center in Steamboat Springs.