‘This means the world to us’: A Portage assisted living home makes in-person visits possible for Christmas

Visiting Booth Web

PORTAGE, Wis. — Many of the residents at the Heritage House haven’t been able to see their families in person since the beginning of 2020.

But thanks to an idea brought on by activity director Susan Jensen, residents and their families were able to be closer than ever this Christmas.

“I’m so glad we were able to make this happen for them,” Jensen said.

Jensen said she saw a Facebook post showing a visiting booth at a nursing home in the United Kingdom and thought it was a wonderful idea. After going through corporate approval, Jensen’s husband, Chris Jensen, built the booth in one weekend. Heritage House staff posted about the booth on Facebook and now, the booth is booked through the next two weeks.

“[I wanted] to do something that, to me, seemed relatively simple to allow the families to stay in touch with each other during the cold winter months,” Chris Jensen said.

The booth was built in an empty room at the facility. Two visitors at a time are allowed in the booth for 30-minute intervals. Visitors enter through the front door of Heritage House to get screened for COVID symptoms. Staff members then lead them back outside and around to a different entrance so they can walk straight into the visiting booth. The booth is disinfected in between visits, and is equipped with plexi glass and hand sanitizer.

On Christmas Eve, Heritage House resident Jeanette Lambert was able to visit with her family in-person for the first time since March.

“This is just absolutely wonderful,” Lambert said.  I’m so thankful for them for all that they’ve done.”

Lambert’s granddaughter, Chelsea Lambert, got emotional talking about what the 30-minute visit meant to her.

“It’s such a blessing that the Jensen family has put together for the families here at Heritage House,” she said. “This means the world to us. I don’t think they’ll ever know how much this means to people because I know it can’t be easy being in here for this long. It’s the holidays and it was such perfect timing.”

Chris Jensen said he was happy to be a part of something that made Christmas so much warmer than it could have been this year.

“It’s been a difficult year for so many people for so many different reasons,” he said. “This was just one small way to try to make the holidays a little bit better for the people who live here and their families.”

Heritage House staff said they plan on keeping the visiting booth there until normal in-person visits can happen again.