Each day families are eagerly awaiting updated guidelines from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in relation to visitation and restrictions for long term care. Since March, COVID-19 restrictions have put a halt on regular in-person visitation which has taken a toll on all involved. Luckily there are ways to abide by the rules of the CDC and CMS while allowing for family visitation.
Although CMS continues to warn of the dangers of COVID-19 on the elderly, they are empathetic to the impact these restrictions have on residents, families, and staff. In a recent update to CMS guidelines, they urge facilities to work with state officials, families, and ombudsmen to make decisions about visitation but encourage the use of “safe spaces (1).” For months, facilities across the country have been perfecting visitation stations with the proper safety precautions, environment, and equipment.
Best Practices for Visitation Stations
There are several best practices to consider when creating a visitation station. While safety is of utmost importance, comfort, privacy, and enjoyment are on the list as well!
While window visits, and courtyard visits are available and easy enough to do, a physical station is usually the best option. It brings loved ones close together and allows for an intimate visit instead of waving from afar. These areas can also be customized for an elevated experience and can make residents and their loved ones feel more comfortable. These visitation stations can be made from a few supplies like wood and plexiglass. Greenhurst Nursing Center and Country Elegance Assisted Living constructed safe, roomy places allowing for visits to be as close to “normal” as we can get at this point.
The President of the New York State Health Facilities Association tells news station CBS New York, he has seen improvement in the overall safety in long term care over the last few months, but it is not a one size fits all approach and each facility will have a unique experience (2). Depending on space, weather, and other facility and staffing factors, your visitation station might look different.
One incredible idea seen across the world is a “hug curtain.” Many people have created a curtain with “arms” to allow for touch while still being covered and protected from each other. See below how a 10-year-old California child created her own to hug her grandparents (3)!
Unfortunately, many residents in long-term care are hard of hearing even when close together. In the circumstances of physical distancing, any opportunity to see family may not be as enjoyable from far away, especially with additional barriers in place such as plexiglass and masks.
Often people who experience hearing impairment rely on facial cues and lip movements to follow conversations. With masks being the norm for safety during these visits, this is just another potential blocker for quality interactions between residents and their loved ones. While some communities are using cell phones or walkie-talkies to overcome this challenge, often, cellular issues cause calls to drops and walkie-talkies provide less clarity. Clear two-way communication is central to a positive visitation experience.
By using Eversounds Visitation Package the long-awaited visits are more enjoyable because the quality of the interaction is improved by addressing these types of communication barriers with long range, wireless transmission. Instead of depending on a phone or Wi-Fi, these headphones enable all participants to have a successful experience while enjoying hands-free clear two-way communications through their own antimicrobial headset and microphone!
Families are eager to visit. To ensure you’re not overrun by families and left unable to help and guarantee safe visiting, you’ll need to spend some time working out the details. The best way to maximize time for visits while allowing for privacy and assistance is by using a scheduler. Online schedulers like Calendly or Doodle are great and affordable options for automating the process for families and teams.
Another consideration is the available staff needed. You should plan for some extra hands to bring residents or family to the visitation station, oversee that safety guidelines are followed and answer any questions or concerns families might have. As well as ensuring any required cleaning is conducted between visits.
Finally, don’t forget about the weather. If your visitation station will not do well in the rain, be sure you are checking the forecast and keeping families aware of canceled or rescheduled visits. One way to easily get the word out about visitation and other new developments for the facility is through social media.
Other tips include:
- Require visits to be appointment only
- Limit visits to certain days and times with caps on frequency
- Set caps on length of visit
- Set expectations to visiting family members in advance
Make It Fun
Once you have mastered the location, construction, technology, and coordination of it all, it’s time to go a step further and get creative. Visitation stations will do the job as a blank slate but there is an opportunity to make it fun by decorating, creating a theme, or playing music. A visitation station can be focused on comfort with comfortable seating and umbrella’s to shield the sun, or can be decorated for the soonest holiday. By incorporating special touches, it will elevate the environment and make the visit extra special. Colonial Courtyard at Bedford has done an incredible job with their visitation station decor. See below their summer flowers and fake fireplace set-up!
Bringing Families Together Once Again
Once these ideas are put together, you’ll have a full schedule of families ready to make new, special, and unique memories. There is no doubt senior living communities are up to the challenge in adapting to these crazy times. Our Eversound Facebook community has shared their successful visitation stations, and we hope to see your successful visits as well which takes into account safety, enjoyment, comfort, and privacy.