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A Safe Embrace: Fellowship Community uses special booth for residents to connect with others

When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the world, seniors facilities were forced to get creative in the care of their residents. Fellowship Community, 3000 Fellowship Drive, Whitehall, wanted to find a way to care for not only the physical health of the residents, but also their emotional well-being.

In October, the retirement and assisted living facility started utilizing the Safe Embrace booth.

According to Fellowship CEO Mary Kay McMahon, staff members saw social media posts from other senior living organizations making booths or areas that allowed for safe touching and hugging. She noted the Fellowship maintenance staff went to see a version of the apparatus and then built a modified version for use at Fellowship.

A plastic sheet is used to keep a safety barrier between people. There are holes in the sheet for someone to reach through for a hug or to hold hands. Visitors using the booth wear gloves and masks for the safety of the residents.

McMahon noted the initial design presented difficulties for residents in larger specialty wheelchairs. Modifications were made to the positions of the arm holes to accommodate residents sitting or standing.

According to McMahon, the Safe Embrace booth has been extremely well received by residents.

“There wasn’t a dry eye in the house as the first residents and families tried it out,” she said. “The power of the human touch cannot be overstated.”

It was reported Fellowship will continue with the initiative for as long as it is needed.

“The need for family members to physically connect is very powerful,” McMahon said. “It is an experience [the residents] were robbed of as a result of the pandemic. Any safe way to provide that interaction is critical for mental and emotional health.

“Despite the challenges the pandemic has put before us, we have tried to creatively adapt and find ways around them while still keeping our residents and staff safe,” McMahon added.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO With help from the Safe Embrace booth, Pete Johnson is able to hug his mother, Marian, during a recent visit to Fellowship Community, Whitehall.