‘Hug station’ at East Providence nursing home allows residents, loved ones to safely embrace

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EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — An East Providence nursing home has made it possible for its residents to hug their loved ones once again.

The R.I. Department of Health eased visitation restrictions on nursing homes and assisted-living facilities statewide last week, but Tuesday was the first day the Linn Health Care Center began allowing visitors.

The nursing home went a step further, however, by creating a “hug station” where residents can safely hug their loved ones.

The station is located in a doorway that is covered by plastic, with two arm sleeves on either side. Both the resident and visitor can simply place their arms through the plastic sleeves so they can hug one another.

The heart-warming gesture allowed Toni Spencer and her 97-year-old mother Maria to hug for the first time since March.

Toni and Maria were the first to utilize the “hug station” Tuesday. When asked what she thought of the embrace, Maria said it was “wonderful.”

“It’s just heart-warming,” Toni said. “My sisters are all jealous, and my brother.”

Toni said this was one of her most favorite visits to her mother’s nursing home since the coronavirus pandemic began.

“We were always giving each other hugs and holding hands, so it’s been hard,” Toni said. “It was hard when we could see her outside and couldn’t touch her, and then this not seeing her at all has been tough.”

Jamie Sanford, the administrator of the nursing home, said they’re grateful to provide the “hug station” for their residents and visitors.

“We’ve been waiting for this since the first week of March, to have that warm embrace,” Sanford said. “Physical touch is so important, it adds comfort and wellbeing. It is therapeutic and everybody needs it.”

Toni said her mother is fully vaccinated and has never tested positive for COVID-19. She’s hopeful that their family can have more visits just like this one in the near future.

“She’s 97, so she still wants to be around to see everybody,” Toni said. “Things will get better.”

Sanford said the facility will be hosting its third vaccination clinic this weekend.

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