It’s A Hug(e) Fear To Get Over

Right | January 12, 2016

(I work in an assisted living facility. One of our residents, a man who can’t support his own weight well and usually needs help dressing his lower half, is currently on quarantine for a highly contagious disease, and is not allowed to leave his room or be visited by other residents. Whenever I go into his room to help him with something, I must put on a protective gown and gloves. He has called me in several times to ask me in three times already to help me get dressed, but has sent me away once for not setting clothes out in the right order, and twice after getting him a drink that he wants to take time finishing first. It is not until the fourth time that he finally allows me to help him into his pants.)

Resident: “We did it.”

Me: “Yes, we did.”

Resident: “High five!”

(I’m still wearing gloves, and the proposition is cute, so I high five him.)

Resident: “Ah. I know we got off to a rough start this morning, but you and I make a good team!”

Me: “That we do. I’m happy I could help.”

Resident: “You know, come here. Let me give you a hug.”

Me: “Um…”

Resident: *joking* “I’ve had my coffee. I won’t bite now.”

(The resident has obeyed rules not to leave his room, but I’ve become increasingly aware over the course of the day that he doesn’t fully realize he’s infectious with something spread on contact. My protective gown does cover my back, but not as thoroughly as the front, and there is nothing covering my face, so I don’t feel safe with such close contact.)

Me: “Sorry. I’m not a very big fan of hugs. Is there anything else I can do for you?”

Resident: “Not a fan of hugs? Oh, ma’am, you’re missing out on a wonderful thing.”

(Whenever I see him now, he pulls me aside, holds my hands real tight, and gives me a speech about how he hopes I can conquer my fears and learn to accept the beauty of physical affection. He seems really worried about me and my fabricated hug dislike.)

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