We might have re-entered lockdown, but for many residents of nursing homes, lockdown has been going on for months during the Coronavirus pandemic.
For thousands of residents of assisted living facilities across the United States that is especially true as the numbers there never got better, and over 100,000 people in such homes, from residents to workers, have died of the virus; according to a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of state-reported data.
This has kept them isolated from their loved ones, and any visitors or close human contact. When you are someone with a compromised immune system, hugs are not a risk you can afford to take. Luckily for residents of one assisted living facility in Webster, Texas, someone had an idea that helped change that.
Becky Hudson is the lifestyle director at the Heartis Clear Lake assisted living facility and she noticed there was a serious issue that needed addressing.
“In March, when things shut down, one of my residents told me the only thing she missed was human touch,” Becky said. “When she said that, I put my gloves on and held her hands and she was just crying. That’s when I started thinking of ways for our seniors to be able to hug their loved ones without risking their lives.”
She came up with an idea for a “hug booth” that would allow people to embrace without touching at all. But while she had the concept in mind she needed help bringing it to life, and the local Boy Scout Troop 848 was who she reached out to.
17-year-old McCain Penrod took on the project and for nearly a month with the help of his father, his friends, and fellow Scouts, he went through various designs on the idea until he settled on one and built three booths. Each booth features a plexiglass window, and two large sanitized gloves for the senior residents to put their hands through to hug friends and family.
Human contact is something we require, and when we go without it for too long it can be detrimental to not just our mental health, but our physical and spiritual health as well. McCain discovered this when working on the project.
“When I was talking to some of the residents, I noticed this wasn’t a want, but a need,” McCain said. “There was a lot of satisfaction to be able to provide that need, especially to those most vulnerable during the pandemic. The booths brought a slice of life back to a group that needed it most.” He was able to install the booths a day before the United States celebrated Thanksgiving in November.
Becky Hudson said she was shocked at how well the booths were designed and commented on the results. “I immediately saw an enormous difference. Some residents who were normally active had become withdrawn when they stopped seeing their family members. Most of our residents have dementia and they were just confused why their children stopped coming to see them,” Hudson said. “They declined emotionally, but the hug booths came in and they could finally see them and hold their hands, and now they’re finally doing activities again, they want to come down for their meals.”
In fact the benefit has been so great that she is attempting to encourage other homes to build similar devices to allow residents to have visitors and a form of contact that is as safe as can be managed in this difficult time. It is also your Good News Story of the Day which you can read in full here.
In order for any facilities to enact such a change, it would be a matter of the homes having the resources, the volunteers, and the space to allow it. Health experts would also have to have a say in whether or not these designs are properly safe before we could put it into practice anywhere in Canada. But the idea does seem worth pursuing.
“The hug booths changed everything and I truly believe all nursing homes should have them,” Becky said.
Story and Image from CNN.