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with the daily operation of their department.
Organizing and Managing an
Individual Visit Program

By Debbie Hommel, BA, CRA, ACC
Executive Director of
DH Special Services

Many years ago, as a new activity professional, I remember being sent on my first room visit.  When I asked
what a room visit was, my director told me to go find residents in their rooms and visit them.  Although I did
peek into the rooms of the more impaired residents, I tended to gravitate to those residents who were alert and
responsive.  Most were engaged in their own activity and some even had visitors already.  Unfortunately, with
the plan my director gave me – those residents needing visits did not get them.

Managing the room visit program is a challenge for most activity departments.  Room visits are often the first
responsibility to be eliminated or cancelled when someone calls out or the department is down staff.  This is
unfortunate, as this population needs as many interventions and sometimes more than those who can attend
groups or seek out their own stimulation.

If we follow the therapeutic process, we know the first step is to identify those residents needing such a
program.  Having a targeted list of residents who do not partake in group functions is a beginning.  
Categorizing or grouping the residents by need is the second step.  Creating groupings of residents who are
more alert or who need sensory or who are admitted for short-term care will help define the type of program,
which needs to be created.  If those remaining in their room are more impaired, than materials of a sensory or
supportive nature need to be organized.

The next step is to gather materials.  Having supplies dedicated to the room visit program is highly
recommended.  If the supplies for the room visit program are also used for the group programs, this may
present challenges when seeking the materials for the room visits.  If the materials were left on a unit or in a
closet, one would have to spend precious visit time seeking out the materials prior to each defined room visit
period.  Although it may seem like an unnecessary expense to have duplicate materials, having dedicated
materials to the program saves time in the long run and allows for more time to be devoted to actual visits.     
Secondly, they need to be organized in an accessible or useful manner.  If one has to rummage through a
closet to find the materials, again time is wasted.  Organizing the materials onto a cart or large basket is one
suggestion.  Then, when assigned to conduct room visits, all one has to do is grab the cart or basket and start

One creative idea is to have theme carts.  Theme carts can be holiday or seasonal based.  Decorated with
visuals, music and food related to the theme - allows for a portable party or reminiscent group to be brought to
the room.  Carts focusing on cooking, gardening and sensory are also effective.  Titling the cart a creative name
such as “Activities-a-go-go” or “Activities-on-the-go” or “Activities-a-la-cart” is popular.

Another suggestion is to clearly define staff responsibilities.  To just say “visit whoever- whenever you get time”,
is not effective.  There is greater potential for a resident to be overlooked with this approach.  Specific
caseloads of visitation should be defined.  Some facilities do it by unit or floor, while others work off defined
lists.  In either case, staff needs to be responsible and accountable for the visits.

A monitoring system is also recommended.  Keeping the monitoring system simple and efficient is essential.  
Visit forms where staff write narratives for every visit are too time consuming and the entries eventually become
inconsistent.  Adopting a simple checklist, which defines frequency, content and response to visit is the best

Timing and content of visits should be defined by the plan of care.  Some residents may appreciate more
frequent, shorter visits.  While other residents prefer a longer visit.  Additional in room support can be secured
through volunteers.  Volunteer visits should be included within the care plan and the monitoring format.

The final rule is that room visits should be as structured and as organized as our groups.  To conduct room
visits only when there is an extra staff person or if it is a slow group day is a disservice to those residents who
are limited to their rooms.  All residents can benefit from our interventions, whether in group or in their rooms
and all residents deserve that opportunity.
About Debbie

Debbie Hommel, BA, CRA, ACC, is
the Executive Director of DH
Special Services. She is a
Certified Activity Consultant on
State and National level, with over
twenty-seven years of experience
in providing direct care and
consultation to long term care,
medical day care, assisted living,
and ICF/MR facilities throughout
New Jersey, New York, Maryland,
and Pennsylvania. She is an
experienced trainer and workshop
presenter, conducting a variety of
seminars throughout the Tri-State
area for the Activity Professional,
Administrator, and allied
healthcare professional. Debbie
Hommel is an active member of
Activity Professional Associations
on State and National levels. She
is ACC certified through the
NCCAP. She is a founding
member of the New Jersey Activity
Professionals' Association, serving
terms as Vice President and
President. She received the
Weidner Lifetime Achievement
Award in 1994 and the Monmouth
& Ocean County Activity
Professionals Life Achievement
Award in 1999.
Copyright 2004-PRESENT
The Activity Director's Office
All rights reserved
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