VENICE, Florida – Nursing home and assisted living residents have been unable to accept family members since the COVID-19 shutdown.
For months, Jeanne Kleeberg has been visiting her father Gino Bartolucci through a glass window in the Tuscan gardens in Venetia Bay. Senior Living in Venice.
Usually his 70-year-old wife sits next to him, but she passed away in June.
“You think you can hear her in the next room, but she really isn’t there,” said Bartolucci.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, he has not been able to hug his daughter since March.
And that goes for many others too.
“It was hard,” said Barbara Kelly.
Barbara and Richard Kelly have been married for 57 years. She lives in the supervised residential area of the Tuscan Gardens and Richard is in the memorial wing.
This is the longest time they have had without clinging to each other since the 1960s.
“It’s been a long time to really hug him,” said Barbara.
Tuscan Gardens staff saw families struggle with this.
“Our residents have not been able to get that touch and feeling from their family members, and while we will touch and love them, it’s not the same,” said Lisa Capasso, director of community relations at the Tuscan Gardens of Venetia Bay .
So they created two “Hug Walls” with gloves and a barrier that is cleaned after each visit.
Family members put on long, disposable gloves and put their arms through holes in the clear plastic barrier to hug.
For the first time in months Richard was able to hold Barbara.
“That’s what we need, a hug,” said Barbara.
And Jeanne was allowed to hug her father for the first time since her mother’s death.
“It was emotional,” said Jeanne.
“They were magical for our families and our residents. They are so happy when they can see their children. They usually sit by the window and talk, but when they can hug and love them, it’s emotional for all of us.” said Capasso.