'No touch' staying in touch

“Hi, Grandma!”

“Hello! I miss you!”

“Do you see Jillian, and Brooke, and Alex?”

In groups of two or three, the members of Betty Dumas’ family took turns saying hello to their beloved mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. With COVID-19 restrictions still in effect, no one could go inside, so the gathering took place at a Homeland Center window.

In the age of limited contact, Homeland coordinates window visits that keep families connected.

From the inside, residents get a bit of cheer and love. From the outside, family members get reassurance that their loved one is doing fine.

It is all done in compliance with Homeland’s strict measures to prevent COVID-19 contamination without compromising the vibrant quality of life assured to every resident.

On this day, Betty’s family congregated outside the windows of the first-floor skilled care dining room. The window visits help make the inability to visit in person a bit more tolerable, said Betty’s daughter, Donna Longnaker.

“I’m just so happy to see her,” she said. “I really am.”

Advance scheduling helps Homeland staff coordinate the little details that assure safety and a positive experience for residents and their families. It starts when families call Homeland’s activities office to schedule a time and day.

From there, a Homeland staff member lets the resident know their family is coming and makes sure they are wearing a face mask before taking them to the visiting window. Using a personal or Homeland Center phone, the staff member connects to one of the family members outside.

“The residents find great joy in it,” says Homeland Activities Director Aleisha Connors. “They enjoy seeing their family face to face, right there through the window.”

Multiple generations and, sometimes, family dogs will join in the visits. Some families bring signs proclaiming, “We love you,” or showing family photos.

Pouring rain didn’t stop the celebration of one resident’s 97th birthday party. While she stayed dry inside, family members stood outside under their umbrellas. They dropped off presents at the front door, and Aleisha brought them to the resident’s side. Together, they opened gifts consisting of clothing and an arts and crafts kit.

Another resident’s granddaughter came to the window, wearing her wedding dress for the ceremony that her grandmother would not be able to attend.

“When you see things like this, it’s amazing, and you really are reminded how important family interaction is for the residents,” says Director of Social Services and Ellenberger Unit Coordinator Ashley Bryan.

The window visits can augment the virtual visits that Homeland started coordinating after the pandemic restrictions prevented visitors from coming inside. For family, the window visits offer firsthand assurances of the quality care their loved ones receive.

On a warm Monday afternoon, Betty Dumas hosted three generations for a window visit. They took their turns chatting. When a question came up about how long Betty had worked as a nurses’ aide at Harrisburg’s former Polyclinic Hospital, they merely had to ask, and Betty answered -- 22 years.

Betty’s granddaughter, Nicole Yasenchak, brought her three children to the window visit.

“She seems to be in good spirits”, she said.

Some residents, like Betty, do better with window visits than virtual visits because they have a hard time seeing faces and following conversations on the small screen.

The visits even give family members a chance to interact with the staff that they get to know so well. Donna said hello to a staff member who tapped on the window to get her attention.
Donna wishes she could hug her mom, but she has the comfort of knowing that her mother is safe at Homeland.

“I love Homeland,” she says. “I’m glad she’s here. She has a lot of good care.”

 
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