How to Be a Good Visitor
Over the last three months, my fiercely independent 94-year-old relative has been hospitalized three times for pneumonia, a fall and CHF. Up until then she lived in her own room within a complex that provided meals and some housekeeping services. She has reluctantly come to the conclusion that she had to transfer to the next level of care - called an infirmary at her residence, not actually a nursing home but functions much like one.
Because of this experience, I realized the value of the APIC consumer alert "How to be a good visitor at a nursing home"
It lists several practical tips for visiting loved ones. I arrived late one evening after attending a bridal shower - pleasantly, the staff did not mind that it was already 8pm. But I wondered if they would ask me not to visit if I arrived showing flu like symptoms. This is one of the first tips given: Stay home if you are sick. It also mentions 5 specific illnesses that could wreck havoc in a long-term care facility or other communal residences: GI illnesses, influenza, human metapneumovirus, adenovirus and respiratory syncytial virus.
The third recommendation was to reduce clutter - truly a challenge for my relative, as we had to consolidate her belongings from her spacious room into this smaller room. Of course, it makes it easier to clean the area but rest assured it was hard to tell her that some items needed to be tossed.
Hand hygiene is stressed and many LTC facilities have alcohol based hand rubs available. Certainly staff members are tuned into the importance of this practice. This may be an opportunity to develop a program for hand hygiene for residents and visitors.