Minnesota health officials issue guidance on window visits with long-term care residents during pandemic

Charlie Johnson visits his father Bernard at Whispering Pines Senior Living in Anoka amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Sandy Hamilton)

The Minnesota Department of Health released guidance last week on how family and friends can visit loved ones in assisted living and other long-term care facilities safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

With restrictions on indoor visits still in place at assisted living and long-term care facilities, health officials recommend visiting with residents through their windows

Window visits keep loved ones safe while also keeping them connected, which is important as most assisted living and long-term care residents in Minnesota have spent the last three months living in isolation due to the pandemic. The FOX 9 Investigators found at least one senior citizen who recently passed away died in part due to loneliness

MDH shared the following steps for conducting a window visit: 

1. Decide whether a window visit is right for your loved one

MDH says visitors should first determine if a window visit is right for their loved one. For example, a window visit may confuse or frustrate a resident with dementia because they might not understand or forget the rules of the visit. 

2. Contact the long-term care facility

Visitors should tell staff at the assisted living or long-term care facility that they are planning a window visit as some residents may get scared if people walk up to their window. 

3. Set a time and place for the window visit

Visitors should set a time and place for a window visit to make sure if does not conflict with the resident's therapy or other activities. 

If visitors contact the facility in advance of their window visit, staff can have their loved one dressed and ready at the window at the time of the visit. This is especially important if the loved one does not live on the ground floor. 

4. Implement safety measures

MDH also recommends implementing safety measures during a window visits. If the resident’s window will be open during the visit, the resident should stay 3 feet back from the window, and should wear a cloth mask. Family members visiting the resident should sit 3 feet back from the window outside the building. They should also be wearing a cloth mask.

All window visits must comply with the social distancing requirements outlined by public health officials. Visitors must keep at least 6 feet away from people visiting other residents.