A few changes to visiting made all the difference – a care home manager shares their experience

On a recent call with my inspector, we were discussing how my service was managing visiting – it has been stressful trying to achieve a good balance between supporting and encouraging good quality visiting while keeping our residents as safe from Covid as possible. I was disappointed when she highlighted that our visiting arrangements were too rigid and not in line with guidance, but she was supportive and encouraging and I came away with some really constructive and practical advice.

We’ve now made some changes based on our inspector’s advice and I’m so glad we did. With some simple adjustments, we’ve really improved the visiting experience for residents and their loved ones. It feels better for me and my staff too; being able to make visiting more welcoming, homely and accessible is helping us make a positive difference for residents and that’s something we’re really passionate about.

I’d like to share a few key highlights of the changes we made.

  • The booking system has been removed, with only a request from families to notify us if possible, prior to the visit so we can ensure the resident is not busy in another activity when they arrive.
  • We have created an additional visiting area downstairs so that two visits can take place in a communal visiting area at the same time if the family/residents are not keen on a visit in the bedroom.
  • We will be offering one of the toilets at the main entrance as a primary visitor toilet with further enhanced cleaning in place.
  • We have removed the need to distance or wear a mask outdoors in line with the guidance too and reduced the social distance back to 1m indoors (not overtly marked in any way, just subtle and homely positioning of the chairs).
  • Children were always allowed to visit indoors and outdoors for some time now, but we hadn’t made that clear – we have made sure everyone is aware of this now.
  • We had been encouraging outings, but we are now highlighting that these can be to local cafes or to the relative’s household for a visit and so on.
  • We are ensuring that any risk assessments we undertake now demonstrate less rigidity and a greater level of warmth.

I also had a person-centred discussion around visiting with one family that had raised concerns to discuss all the changes we were making and answer any queries. It was a really productive and positive discussion. Not long after, they came to visit their loved one and brought their daughter and two grandchildren too. They all went for an outdoor visit to the loch and the play park together since it was a quite bright and mild day. I spoke to them afterwards and they were very complimentary, saying “We had a wonderful time. It was the best visit we have had since Covid began. Mum was on great form”. (We always encourage staff to engage a resident in a person-centred stimulating activity pre-visit so the resident is able to engage really well during a visit or video call and the resident had been playing Simon Says with the staff and also had a short walk in the garden for some fresh air before the family arrived, which hopefully helped her engage well on the visit.)

I encourage fellow care home managers and providers to get in touch with your inspector if you’re concerned about visiting. I was met with positivity, encouragement and constructive advice, and with a few quick fixes, we were able to make a big difference.