LOUISVILLE, Colo. (AP) – Lynda Hartman needed a hug.
It has been at least eight months since she touched her 77-year-old husband Len, who has dementia and has been at an assisted living center in suburban Denver for a year.
On Wednesday, she got a little taste of life before the coronavirus pandemic.
Thanks to a “hug tent” set up in front of the Juniper Village in Louisville, Hartman was able to squeeze her husband – but with plastic covers and a 4 millimeter thick transparent plastic barrier.
“I really needed it. I really needed it, “said the 75-year-old after her brief visit.” It meant a lot to me and it’s been a long, long time. “
Hartman, who broke two vertebrae and could no longer look after her husband on his own, said she thought he was a little confused, but it was important that they hug again.
“We tried to do it for a long time,” she said. “It felt good. I kept slapping his glasses when I hugged him. And he got cold.”
While the setup wasn’t ideal, Hartman said, “At least something can be done and it matters.”
Since the pandemic, similar tents have appeared across the country and in places like Brazil and England, where some people call them “cozy curtains”.
The assisted living facility in the suburb of Denver, Louisville, which has fully vaccinated its residents and employees, has partnered with nonprofit health organization TRU Community Care to pitch the tent with construction-quality plastic on a stormy but warm winter day this week.
“I think it’s just a lot of weight off their shoulders, just having that hug they haven’t had in a long time,” said Anna Hostetter, a spokeswoman for Juniper Village in Louisville. “When we planned and set this up and I saw pictures, I wasn’t sure if you could get that human contact with all the plastic and everything you could really get. But I tore up some of them. It was really special for our families. “
The hug tent will be rebuilt on Tuesday and staff plan to continue to house them.
It was important for Gregg MacDonald to hold hands with his 84-year-old mother, Chloe MacDonald, as they hadn’t touched since April. She likes to be informed about her grandson and granddaughter.
“Time is a precious commodity. While we are all waiting to get back to normal, everyone is doing what they can in the meantime,” said Gregg MacDonald. “So I appreciate all the efforts you are making to enable us to have more contact with everyone.”
Amanda Meier, project coordinator for TRU Community Care, said she, her husband, and some volunteers built the hug tent around a standard 8 x 8 foot pop-up frame and attached the build-quality plastic with glue and Velcro. Plastic arm cuffs built into the tent are attached with embroidery frames.
Since early November, she has helped set up four hug tents in Colorado and said the feedback has been positive.
“Lots of tears, but happy tears and lots of shocked statements about how in the world we can do something like that. It’s so strange,” said Meier.
But after the initial craziness, the benefits are clear, she said.
“You can see some kind of relief in their bodies and faces when they finally have that physical contact that is really a basic human need. And they often lack it in these facilities anyway, because they are simply not with their families, “said Meier.” I don’t think it’s really measurable. You just know when you see it and feel it when you are there. “
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