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West Orange Times & Observer Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020 1 month ago

Facility lets residents get face-to-face with loved ones

Hugs have been discouraged during the pandemic, but Inspired Living has come up with a way to let people experience the next best thing.
by: Amy Quesinberry Community Editor

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a temporary no-hugs, no-kisses culture, but one assisted-living facility in Ocoee has come up with a way to let its residents still feel the warmth of having two arms around them.

Inspired Living has introduced a hug booth, built by the facility’s maintenance director, Jewell Dye, who saw the idea somewhere else and offered to build one.

Dye and his assistant built the booth in one day, and Inspired Living opened it up to residents and their families last week. The first resident to experience it was Jackie Hayes, who won the facility’s Mother of the Year Contest and volunteered to have her photo taken while she was giving and receiving hugs, said Jennifer Jordon, sales director of Inspired Living. Hayes’ daughter, Marcella Wilson, signed her up immediately.

Residents have been giving positive reviews of the lifeline to loved ones and the outside world.

“Unless you’re in it, unless you work in it or you have a loved one in it, it’s hard to understand — the loss of that family connection and how detrimental it can be to these residents,” Jordon said. “Even those in memory care; they know they’re missing their families.”

One such resident, Joanna Keller, was able to visit face-to-face with her two daughters and a granddaughter.

“She said, ‘Oh, this makes me so happy I can’t even stand it.’ She’s in memory care, and when she saw them she just teared up. Just touching their hands through the gloves, it meant so much.”

Hug booth visits are scheduled in one-hour blocks to make sure there is enough time for the family to hang out together without a crowd gathering and for the staff to sanitize it after the visit.

“We’re making sure it’s done really safely,” Jordon said.

The hug booth is a simple contraption created with plywood, hard plastic and a clear shower curtain so residents and their families can see and hear one another. Both people don long disposable gloves. Holes are cut into the plastic sheet so people on both sides can put their arms through to give and receive their hugs.

“The hugs are nice, but even seeing them hold hands has just been so sweet,” Jordon said.

Her own grandparents were Inspired Living residents until recently, and she was able to see them every day. She realizes she is fortunate to have been able to do so.

“We’re trying to think outside the box to make that family connection,” Jordon said. “They need this connection, and so does the family.”

Steve Hatley, background, and his father, James Hatley, were able to share a hug in Inspired Living’s new hug booth.


Amy Quesinberry is the community editor of the West Orange Times & Observer and the Windermere Observer. She was born and raised in Winter Garden, grew up reading the community newspaper and has been employed there as a writer, photographer and editor since 1990....

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