By Carla Samon Ros
Sao Paulo, Jul 2 (efe-epa).- It had been more than 100 days since Maria Paula Moraes last hugged her father, who lives in a nursing home in Sao Paulo, but on Thursday, despite the accelerating spread of the coronavirus pandemic in Brazil, they were able to get close to each other again using a “hug curtain.”
“It was a little cuddle for the heart” and “we were needing it,” she told EFE, adding that she had been “very anxious” on the way to the Anni Azurri Vida e Lar para Idosos old folks’ home, located in the southern part of the city, where her 82-year-old dad, Wanderley, lives.
This is the seventh nursing home in the city to find in the “hug curtain” a viable alternative for brightening up the social distancing measures, with authorities recommending avoiding any direct physical contact with the elderly due to their vulnerability to the coronavirus and their poor chances of surviving the Covid-19 pneumonia that it causes.
With the initiative, visitors and the elderly, all of them wearing protective gloves, insert their arms into the large plastic pockets in the “curtain” – which is repeatedly disinfected by the nurses at the nursing home. And thus, they are able to hug each other once again, albeit with a thin layer of plastic in between.
“The plastic has a thickness that allows you to feel the whole body” and “this creates neurotransmitters and hormones” that produce “a marvelous feeling of wellbeing,” occupational therapist Mayara Martins, 32, told EFE.
This method of hugging, apparently so simple, goes much beyond providing a “clinical” change for the elderly, since it also helps them “emotionally” to “survive this pandemic period,” when it is “very common to have behavioral changes.”
“We’re not able to see how long this (pandemic) will last, it could last for many months,” and so “it’s necessary to think about new strategies so that these people can manage to survive all this,” Martins said.
It was just this need that motivated the man who conceived the “hug curtain,” Bruno Zani, to get started on it and to voluntarily install it in several nursing homes in Sao Paulo.
Before the coronavirus hit, Zani had worked creating decorations for parties and, when the parties were over, he donated the flowers he had “left over” to the city’s homes for the elderly.
But with the pandemic, those celebrations were suspended and he “had no more flowers to donate.”
“I was worried” and “then I got the idea to sponsor another type of affection” for the elderly, and so “I got in touch with therapists, I talked with geriatricians, doctors and psychologists” to work out the idea for the “hug curtain,” he said.
Zani explained that the curtain is “absolutely safe in terms of resistance” and “hygiene,” taking into account that the elderly are more “fragile and vulnerable” to the coronavirus.
To his surprise, he said, the hug curtain’s reception both from nursing home residents and their relatives was “huge” because the project brought “hope” at a time when Brazil “is leading in negative news.”
In fact, the South American giant is the country that has been hardest hit by Covid-19, behind only the US, suffering more than 60,000 deaths and 1.5 million cases so far during the pandemic.