Social distancing takes a whole new twist when loved ones must share a visit through a window. Not even able to touch or feel each other's presence. Window visits are a harsh reality with our government's pandemic response to protect our elderly in nursing homes and living centers from potential infection with Covid-19. Families and residents cope the best they can. We all admire the efforts of residents and staff (insiders) along with the family caregivers (outsiders) to keep these critical connections intact. Facility administrators and their staff struggle with the dilemma of following safety guidelines while enhancing the caregiving to make up for lost one-on-one time known to be so important.
Reality truly hit my heart as I visited my precious Mama through a window at her assisted living memory care facility. My sisters live closer to her and are diligent caregivers, aware of the rules and making as many visits as reasonable and allowed. I thought I understood the impact of visits separated by a window, having observed these visits and even facilitating them during and after my work day. Now I was the visitor on the outside of the window. I felt the joy of seeing Mama as she recognized me and called me by name. However, a helpless frustration quickly followed as we had such difficulty communicating. What a different experience it is being on the outside of the window. It was great to see her and see she was doing well enough, being cared for, and observing her caregivers call her by name and treat her gently. Yet, the separation was more than a pane of glass. Already challenged by her memory loss and dementia, the conversation was awkward and unclear. It was a good visit in many ways, just unsatisfying in so many others.
I knew this was not a novel situation. Many face it every day. My sisters had shared their own window visit stories and I had listened but felt I understood the conundrum. If there are two sides to every story, then in this case there are two experiences to the window visit, the frustration from the "inside" and the emptiness felt by those on the "outside" of that window.
How can I help? This is a problem that must be solved. Until solved, at least I can offer some ideas to enhance the experience and make the best of these window visits. More to come.... I always have ideas!