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Visitors
Family & Friends are Among the Most Common Visitors

Does quality of life improve with family and friend visits? Family and friend involvement with a loved one living in at a residential care facility (nursing home, assisted living facility, and family care home) promotes advocacy and emotional care. Both rely on visiting.

Studies show that family and friend involvement is important for elderly residents in long-term care. The National Center for Biotechnology Information found the Quality of Life increases with family involvement; fewer health conditions, participation in social activities, and an environment low in conflict.

Because these findings suggest that assisted living homes can improve residents' life by creating a cohesive social environment, and encouraging social participation and family involvement - select a facility that encourages the engagement.

How Often do Residents Receive Visitors?

The CDC 2010 National Survey of Residential Care Facilities asked its participants how many times a resident received one or more outside visitors over a 30 day period. The question gives us some insight into how often and what percent of assisted living residents receive visitors.

It's important to note that most residents in the survey (over 90%) received an outside visitor at least once during the 30 day period. But what's even more important to note, is that over 60% of residents received a visitor at least once a week. And 11% received a visitor EVERY DAY!

View the entire results below:

Over the last 30 days, how often did the resident receive one or more outside visitors?
Responses of refusal (< 1%), and don't know (2%) and are not shown.
Source: 2010 CDC National Survey of Residential Care Facilities Survey (Resident Responses)

Only 8% of those residents in the survey did not receive a visitor in the 30 day period. That's still 8% too many, but it does show that outside visitors are an important part of life in assisted living.

Visits from Family & Friends are Important

Family Visitors
Family Visitors

Let's touch on some of the many reasons why receiving visitors is important for assisted living residents:

  • Builds relationships - Family and friends knowledge of the resident is a significant source of information for the staff. The family knows a loved one's history; former work, habits, hobbies, activities, likes and dislikes. During your visits, talk with the staff. It builds a good relationship between your loved one and the facility staff.
  • Once a relationship begins, it's easier to discuss care concerns, establishing opportunities for feedback (both positive and negative). Effective communication promotes better care.
  • Advocate good care - Family and friends support residents unable to advocate for themselves due to dementia or frailty. Frequent visits help you recognize caregiving practices and problems.
  • Emotional support - Regular visits help loved ones feel connected to their social network and the community, making their transition to an assisted living facility easier.

Tips on Visiting

Below are various tips suggested by TheConsumerVoice.org with regards to visiting residents.

  • Telephone ahead and ask your loved one when they would like a visit. After each visit, set a time for the next one. Respect their choice.
  • Use good judgment on best times to visit that does not interfere with treatments, resting or personal activities.
  • Check with the facility, some encourage relatives and friends to join in mealtimes but expect a fee for your meal.
  • Visit often but don't over-promise. Do not promise to visit and then not show up without a call in advance and without scheduling another time. Plan your time realistically to avoid disappointment.
  • Be respectful of their space
  • Knock on the door to a resident's room or apartment before entering; even if they see you.
  • Introduce yourself-give your name unless the resident recognizes you.
  • Ask the resident where they would like to talk.
  • Ask if you may hold the hand or give them a hug. Some are sensitive to touch. Know that personal preferences vary with culture.
  • Check with the desk, if you leave the grounds.
  • Do not visit if you are sick.
  • Know emergency procedures and ask for help when needed.

Limitations on Visitation

The resident is the center of visitation rights, because they control those rights. The resident's consent is a prerequisite for visitation. The resident's ability to exert control depends on whether he or she has legal capacity to make decisions. Legal capacity is often an issue for long-term care residents. To read more about visitation restrictions check out this Guide to Visiting Residents of Long-Term Care Facilities and Hospitals.

Scenarios on Limited or No Visitations

Below are some reasons why visitations are limited with assisted living residents.

  • Healthcare agent prohibits visitation - the resident has a health care agent named in a healthcare Power of Attorney form. The healthcare agent does not want the resident's relative to visit, so the facility bars the person.
  • The resident may choose non-visitation rights.
  • A doctor's recommendation - a resident's physician can write an order to prohibit a relative or friend's visits because they are harmful to the person's health.
  • Restraining order issued by the facility to bar a resident's relative or friend from visiting. The facility can request a temporary Workplace Violence Restraining Order by claiming the relative threatened harm to staff. The key to limited visitations that involves a restraining order is to abide by it. But first verify its validity by checking for a judge's signature. Once it's verified the document is binding and the relative could be arrested for violating it. Restraining orders are serious. You can challenge the order but it must be challenged in court.

All states have varying laws on visitation restrictions, so check your local Area Agency on Aging.

Carol Marak
Carol Marak

After seven years of helping her aging parents, Carol Marak has become a dedicated senior care writer. Since 2007, she has been doing the research to find answers to common concerns: housing, aging and health, staying safe and independent, and planning long-term.