JEUMONT, France (Reuters) – Since the COVID-19 outbreak, French care home resident Colette Dupas’s contact with her daughters has been limited to talking via video call, or through a window.
Now the 97-year-old has been able to feel their touch, thanks to an inflatable tunnel and two plastic sleeves.
The “hug bubble” allows care home residents, isolated from the outside world to protect them the virus, to hold hands and embrace visiting relatives, because at all times they are separated by a hermetically-sealed plastic film.
Dupas ran a bakery in Boussois, 6 km (3 miles) from the nursing home, until her retirement. Her family still run the business.
When meeting her daughters on Friday, Dupas entered through one end of the tunnel. She stood in front of the plastic sheet and put her arms through two plastic sleeves stitched into the film at shoulder height.
Her daughters, Marie-Paule Dronsart and Marie-Joseph Marchant, approached from the other side. Each of them put one arm through a sleeve. They patted their mother’s shoulders and stroked her white hair.
Before leaving, they took turns to kiss their mother on the cheek through the plastic.
“It has brought comfort,” said Stephanie Loiseau, a nursing assistant at the care home in Jeumont, near the border with Belgium.
Before the bubble was installed at the home, she added, “residents would see their relatives through a window or through a camera and they were really missing having real contact”.
Once Dupas and her daughters left the bubble, a care home worker disinfected the plastic, ready for the next encounter: Fabienne Dewille meeting her mother, Raymonde Loire.
Dewille used the plastic sleeves to grip her mother’s hands. “It feels good to be able to meet like this, doesn’t it?” she said to her mother.
(Reporting by Pascal Rossignol; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Pravin Char)