‘Hug curtains’ allow São Paulo families to embrace once again

By Carla Samon Ros

São Paulo, July 2 (efe-epa).- It has been over 100 days since María Paula Moraes hugged her father, who lives in a nursing home in the Brazilian city of São Paulo. On Thursday, despite the advance of the coronavirus epidemic, they were able to embrace once again through a “hug curtain.”

“It was care for the heart” and “we were in need of it,” the woman told EFE, adding that she was “very anxious” on the way to the Anni Azurri Vida e Lar para Idosos nursing home in São Paulo, where her father Wanderley, 82, lives.

This is the seventh nursing home in the city using a “hug curtain” to liven up social distancing measures, which recommend avoiding any physical contact with the elderly due to their vulnerability to the novel coronavirus.

With this initiative, visitors and the elderly, protected by gloves, put their arms into large plastic arm pockets of the “curtain,” which is repeatedly disinfected by the nurses at the residence, so they can hug again.

“The plastic has a thickness that allows the body to feel in its entirety” and “this generates neurotransmitters and hormones” that produce “wonderful wellbeing,” occupational therapist Mayara Martins, 32, told EFE.

This simple action goes beyond offering a clinical change to the elderly, as it also helps them emotionally to “survive this period of pandemic,” when it is “very common to have behavioral disturbances.”

“We are not getting to see how long this is going to last – it may take many months,” so “it is necessary to think of new strategies for these people to survive all this,” said Martins.

It was precisely this need that led the entrepreneur of this project, Bruno Zani, to devise and voluntarily install the hug curtain in various nursing homes in São Paulo.

Before the arrival of the coronavirus, Zani used to decorate parties, and when they ended he gave the leftover flowers to the nursing homes of the city.

But with the pandemic, the celebrations were suspended and he “no longer had the flowers to make donations.”

He said he was worried until he had an idea for another kind of care for the elderly, so he “teamed up with therapists, talked to geriatricians, doctors and psychologists” to bring the hug curtain to life.

Zani said that the structure of this invention is “absolutely safe in terms of resistance” and “sanitation,” taking into account that the elderly are more “fragile and vulnerable” to the virus.

To his surprise, he added, the reception from both the institutions and their residents and families was “immense” because the project brought “hope” at a time when Brazil “is leading all the negative news.”

The South American giant is the second country in the world most affected by COVID-19, only behind the United States, and has already exceeded 60,000 deaths and is approaching 1.5 million infections. EFE-EPA


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