How to Plan a Window Visit at a Long-Term Care Facility: Step-By-Step

Contributing writer, former long-term care admissions counselor and social worker

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The coronavirus pandemic has affected everyone’s situations, and seniors in long-term care facilities aren’t immune to changes. They must stay in their rooms more often, activities are canceled and visitors aren’t allowed. 

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At assisted living and other long-term care facilities, healthcare workers and staff are charged with keeping residents healthy and happy. Families who can’t visit have started doing creative “window visits” in senior living communities across the country. 

Window visits make it possible for long-term care residents to see their loved ones so the facility can still maintain restrictions on visitors and social distancing. This creative, unique way to visit residents keeps them safe and puts a smile on their faces. 

Of course, this means no opening the window or touching/kissing through screens! Here’s how to coordinate a window visit with your loved one.

Step 1: Decide Whether a Window Visit is Right for Your Loved One

This fun idea is a great option for many seniors — but not others. There are a few things to consider before you set it up.

Will your loved one understand?

You may not want to set up this type of visit with your loved one if they will not understand what is happening.

Some seniors with dementia may not understand the restrictions or may forget. This type of visit may be confusing or frustrating for them. 

Will your loved one be receptive?

Similarly, some seniors may be afraid of people walking up to their window. It's up to you to decide whether this visit will be scary for your loved one. 

Have you already decided it’s not a great idea? If so, there are plenty of other options to stay connected. Instead, try setting up a Facetime or video chat, write notes, or make a simple phone call.

ยป MORE: It's normal to feel overwhelmed after a loss. Follow this step-by-step checklist to know what comes next.

 

Step 2: Contact the Long-Term Care Facility

If you’ve decided it’s a great idea, let the facility staff know you’d like to do a window visit. Get some help on the inside to coordinate schedules and make sure your visit goes off without a hitch. Many senior communities are facilitating window visits and most will be happy to get your call. 

Activity coordinators or volunteers who work at the facility can make sure your loved one is dressed, ready, and at the window on the day of your visit. 

Before you call, speak with any other family or friends who would come along for the visit. Determine a few different days and times that work for you for the facility to choose from. Don’t forget, you may not be the only family planning a window visit at the same designated window. 

Step 3: Set Up a Time and Place

Choose a time for your visit that works for both you and your loved one. There are a few things you may want to consider and ask the staff while you plan. 

  • Morning is best. Start your loved one’s day with this fun surprise! Late morning will ensure that your loved one has eaten, that there’s enough light outside and it’s well before lunch. 
  • Be careful not to double-book. Ask the staff whether there are activities on the calendar for the selected date. You want to make sure you’re not setting up your window visit at the same time as an activity. The pandemic has caused activities to be limited and you probably don’t want to pull your loved one away from one of the few activities left. 
  • Can your loved one have a window visit? Some residents may be able to have window visits in their room if they’re on the ground level. But most residents on other floors will need to use an alternate window. Be sure to ask where that is and how to get to it! 

Ask about the delivery policy 

Before you get excited and bring a dozen donuts to drop off once you’re there, find out whether your loved one is allowed to receive deliveries. Due to possible contamination of packages and food, facilities may require any packages to be held for one to three days to ensure the virus is no longer alive on these items.

If you’re allowed to, handle anything you will be passing on with gloves and sanitize as needed. 

What can you surprise your loved one with? Here are a few ideas:

  • Self-recreation activities: Puzzles, yarn, books on tape
  • Food: Fresh cookies or a fresh meal for lunch after your visit
  • A card: Nice words go a long way, and a card is a great way to do that! 
  • Cleaning supplies: You can’t have too many disinfectant sprays at a time like this. 
  • Movies: Social distancing means a lot of alone time. Get your loved one a few favorite movies to pass the time.
  • Books: You won’t go wrong with books, either hard copies or audiobooks.

You can read our guide on quarantine care package ideas for more inspiration.

Step 4: Arrange a Phone Call 

Your loved one may be able to see you through the window but may not be able to hear you well. Get on the phone while you do your visit so you can hear and speak together easily. 

Facilities most likely have a phone your loved one can use if your loved one doesn’t have a phone, but make sure you ask and confirm this when you talk to staff during setup. This way, you are as close as it gets to an in-person visit. 

Pro tip: Your loved one may have impaired hearing. If so, you might need to come up with an alternative method of communicating. Bring a notebook and pen or a whiteboard so you can communicate if a phone call isn't possible.  

Step 5: Make it Fun

Dedicating the time to see your loved one in person with a window visit is a gift your loved one will appreciate, but there are always ways to make things even more fun. 

Share big news

If you have an announcement to share, it can be fun to do so at this time. Things like acceptance into college, pregnancy, or a new job are great ideas. Wait to announce this to the family until your visit so your loved one can be a part of the excitement and feel included. 

Pro tip: Make signs and have the helpful staff member take photos of your loved one's reaction! 

Play a game on the window 

This one will require an all-clear from the facility, but some games can be played on the window if you have the proper supplies! Use window paint or dry-erase markers so your visit turns into interactive game time with: 

  • Tic-tac-toe
  • Hangman
  • Pictionary 

Again, check with staff before writing on the windows, but there are endless possibilities for what can be written, drawn, and played. 

Take pictures 

These times may not be ideal, but they will be memories to look back on, no matter how bizarre. Have photos taken from inside the facility by staff and from your side, too. 

Celebrate a birthday 

Unfortunately, even though your loved one may have a birthday, restrictions cannot be lifted to give a proper celebration.

There are plenty of fun ways to celebrate during your window visit and make it special:

  • Come to the visit decked out in birthday gear — hats, balloons, signs, and horns.
  • Ask the staff if you can decorate the window. You can use a banner along the top and window clings. 
  • Coordinate for a cake to be brought out when you are there so you can sing “Happy Birthday” through the window.

Step 6: Set Up Your Next Visit

Before you hit the road, take the opportunity to speak with your loved one and staff about the next opportunity for a visit and/or what they can do to communicate in the meantime. As mentioned, video calls, cards, and regular phone calls can fill in the gaps between seeing them again. 

If you’re interested in doing a video call, set up a time, and have staff help your loved one with it. 

Plan a Great Window Visit for Your Loved One 

Of course, nothing can compare to hugging your loved one tight, but a window visit can be the next best thing in times like this.

Sharing time with your loved one, no matter the boundaries, is the most important way to break up the loneliness and uncertainty your loved one may feel. 

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