Chagrin Falls nursing home creates ‘hug booth,’ allowing families to embrace safely

Coronavirus

CHAGRIN FALLS, Ohio — It’s just a bunch of two-by-fours, some incredibly thick plastic and a copious amount of duct tape.

But for Dan Sommers who hasn’t been able to hug his 95-year-old mother Helen Goen in two months, it’s the best thing in the world

The folks with Lantern of Chagrin Valley Senior Care Center locked down their facility against COVID-19 even before the governor’s order was issued.

And for more than two months, families have come by for window visits, sometimes standing in snow and rain just to let their family members know that they’re loved.

But the distance is now a lot shorter in what the staff here is calling “the hug booth.”

“This is such a gift, it’s a wonderful gift you just can’t describe how wonderful it is just to hold her,” Goen’s daughter-in-law Sandi Sommers said.

The folks at Lantern freely admit that they “borrowed” the basic idea from a viral video, but that they made it better.

The entire hug booth is scrubbed down and sanitized between visits and the thick clear plastic part is changed.

Everyone has to wear masks and thick plastic cattle gloves that go all the way up to the shoulder.

The whole day is booked with visits from 10 a.m. until almost 8 p.m., because for now this is as face-to-face as you can get.

“We’ve done window visits, FaceTime, Skype visits, phone calls, but that touch is really important to our families, so being able to provide to them is really awesome,” activities coordinator Amy Slack says.

Dressed to impress, as always, 91-year-old Florence Luciano finally got to hug her son Dave and his wife Christine.

For continuing coverage about the coronavirus pandemic, including the latest on Ohio, head here.

They’ve always been close and the family says it’s about just being together in a time of uncertainty.

“We had her to the house all the time every holiday … and we haven’t been able to have her,” Dave said. “I  got to shake her hand and hug her it was even more close.”

And while COVID-19 keeps people apart, love of family will always be an essential business of sorts.

The staff says the booth is only open one day a week and stays busy all day.

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