With COVID Comes Complexity: Assessing the Implementation of Family Visitation Programs in Long-Term Care

Gerontologist. 2022 Dec 3;gnac175. doi: 10.1093/geront/gnac175. Online ahead of print.


Background and objectives: COVID-19 pandemic visitor restrictions to long-term care facilities have demonstrated that eliminating opportunities for family-resident contact has devastating consequences for residents' quality of life. Our study aimed to understand how public health directives to support family visitations during the pandemic were navigated, managed, and implemented by staff.

Research design and methods: Guided by the Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research, we conducted video/telephone interviews with 54 direct care and implementation staff in six long term care homes in two Canadian provinces to assess implementation barriers and facilitators of visitation programs. Equity and inclusion issues were examined in the program's implementation.

Results: Despite similar public health directives, implementation varied by facility, largely influenced by the existing culture and processes of the facility and the staff understanding of the program; differences resulted in how designated family members were chosen and restrictions around visitations (e.g., scheduling, location). Facilitators to implementation were good communication networks, leadership, and intentional planning to develop the visitor designation processes. However, lack of consultation with direct care staff led to logistical challenges around visitation and ignited conflict around visitation rules and procedures.

Discussion and implications: Insights into the complexities of implementing family visitation programs during a pandemic are discussed and opportunities for improvement are identified. Our results reveal the importance of proactively including direct care staff and family in planning for future outbreaks.

Keywords: Family/friend Caregivers; Implementation Science Visitation policies; Nursing home; Pandemic.