PORTAGE (WKOW) -- As the pandemic keeps many families from celebrating holidays together this year, an assisted living facility in Portage is helping families see their loved ones for the first time since March.
Heritage House of Portage unveiled its "visiting booth," which lets people safely visit residents of the assisted living facility. Visitors are separated by plexiglass, but Activities Director Sue Jensen said that's not tamping down spirits.
"They have been so happy," she said. "A lot of them have not seen their family members in quite some time. This is probably the closest they've been."
Like many other assisted living facilities and nursing homes, Heritage House stopped allowing in-person visitors in March as the pandemic worsened.
With the holidays approaching, Jensen decided she needed to try to help the residents see their loved ones.
"I have seen how much it affects them not being able to see their family," she said. "We are their family here, but it's just not the same."
The booth officially opened Monday, and Marketing Director Paula Barans said she's already seeing residents' moods improve.
"It's just a way to give them the spirit of the holiday and [let them] know that they're loved," she said.
The booth is already a hit among residents and families.
Jensen said the 30-minute visits are booked through the holidays and some families are planning return trips.
"My sister-in-law came to visit my mother-in-law, and when they were done visiting, my mother-in-law was like, ‘Schedule another one!’ She just she just really enjoyed it," Jensen said.
Barans said she and other staff members hope the visiting both helps families continue traditional holiday moments despite the pandemic.
"We want to do our best to keep their family members in mind and to help their family stay safe and be happy at the holidays and have some sort of a normal memory of Christmas 2020," she said.
Barans said Heritage House is planning to keep the booth as long as there are restrictions on typical in-person visits, and staff members are already planning how to redecorate it for upcoming holidays.