It may have been inspired by something seen on Facebook, but the recent creation of a “Hugging Wall” at the Fallon Medical Complex’s long-term care facility has brought back the human touch to the COVID-19 in Baker.
Now, residents can touch and hug family members – almost.
There is still plastic separating them, explained Michelle Smith, the assistant director of Nursing at FMC.
“We have the hugging wall here in long-term care,” she explained Monday. “They put on the plastic cowls and plastic gloves. Then they put their hands through the holes in the plastic.
“We found the idea on Facebook and then we waited until our COVID-19 numbers dropped down so that we were not as so much of a high risk,” she explained.
The wall was put up around mid December and was open for use on Dec. 17, Smith said. “We had two families the first day and then the second day we had three families,” she said. “We have been averaging about two to three families a day to come up and hug,” she explained.
Each time, the visits are limited to about 15 minutes in length, followed by about 10 minutes for cleaning up. “We spray it down and wipe everything down afterwards.”
The hugging wall is located in the long-term care area near the social service office and uses a converted hall for meeting relatives.
“The part that you see through is like a shower liner. The other part is a little bit thinner,” she said.
“The staff at FMC love the very people we take care of each and every day.,” the staff explained on its Facebook page when it announced the hugging wall. “There are rules that we need to follow for the sake of everyone involved.”
The first rule is that if people are feeling sick, don’t come. The appointment can be rescheduled. All visits will be by appointment through the long-term care nurses station 406-778-5405.
Each visit will be limited to about 15 minutes, which allows the staff time to be able to clean the area before it can be used again.
The staff also recommends that the people stay in the groups that they normally associate with on a daily basis.
Masks are still required for all visitors at all times in the hugging wall area. In addition, visitors must use hand sanitizer before putting the gloves on.
There is also a tablet available which can be used to communicate, using the internet.
“Our most popular times for appointments is about 9 or 10 o’clock (in the morning) or about 3 in the afternoons,” Smith said.
“We are just happy that we have a way that we can bring through plastic. They can at least see their loved ones,” she added.
The area has been converted from being a hallway.
For more information or if people want to volunteer, they can call Michelle Smith at 406-778-5388.