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'Hug Booth' helping families connect with loved ones in St. Pete specialized memory care community

The Ivy Ridge team took 10 hours to build the "Hug Booth" so visitors and residents can safely hug each other without spreading germs.

SAINT PETERSBURG, Fla. — As Floridians slowly start to adjust to the reopening of the state, keep in mind that nursing homes and assisted living facilities are still closed to visitors. This means people can't visit their elderly relatives or loved ones.

Inspired Living Ivy Ridge in St. Petersburg is working to help families connect with their loved ones while adhering to all CDC guidelines and they're doing so with their "Hug Booth."

“We saw families say things like, 'oh mom I just want to touch you and hug you.' The residents have no idea what is happening right now, the enforcing of social distancing and such. They just want to know why they can't hug or touch their loved one except through a window or technology," said Sheri Derry, director of resident engagement memory care with Inspired Living Ivy Ridge. 

Not to be confused with that of a skilled nursing facility or a nursing home, the Ivy Ridge is a specialized memory care community and find physical interaction to be a key component to a residents success. 

The entire team came together to build the "Hug Booth" taking more than 10 hours to build. Using materials like wood, tarp, and heavy duty plastic.

"I got the idea after seeing something similar to this on Facebook and got with the team and we decided to build our version of the structure that was secure and safe, " said Leslie Edwards, executive director with Inspired Living Ivy Ridge

During the creation process,  Leslie was able to design the "Hug Booth" with protective tape to avoid any damage and positioned the slits in the plastic covering to allow people to sit, stand, and hold hands while using the booth. 

"When using the hug booth, everyone has to wear gloves, then the gloves included in the booth reach from your fingers to the top of your shoulders. Each family and resident using the booth has to wear a mask covering as well," said Edwards. 

Credit: Living Inspired Ivy Ridge

The "Hug Booth" has been available for families to use for less than a week now, however the Ivy Ridge team plans to keep the booth available and sanitized for families to use for as long as they need. 

"We don't know when the lock downs and the distance orders will be gone for good, but we do know we have a viable option here that's helping people and we want to keep that there for them," said Edwards. 

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