Donette Hagen of Oakwood (left) visits her husband, Brent Hagen, in the new outdoor visitor area at Arcadia Care of Danville.

DANVILLE – For more than three months the only way Donette Hagen could talk to her husband, Brent, was through a glass window.

But on a warm, breezy morning last week, the Oakwood couple and their friend, Pam Sexton, also of Oakwood, enjoyed conversation and Brent’s quick-witted humor under a large outdoor tent in front of Arcadia Care of Danville, 1701 N. Bowman Ave.

“I love it this way,” Donette said. “I had been doing window visits, but it’s not the same. This is a lot better than talking through the glass.”

This day’s visit wasn’t the couple’s first under the tent . . . and it certainly wouldn’t be the last.

“We were here yesterday,” Donette said. “We’re out here about four times a week.”

When the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) released new guidelines for long-term care facilities on June 19, it allowed outdoor visits with a limit of two visitors per resident and at least 6 feet of social distancing.

“As part of the state’s reopening plan, the IDPH gave us the opportunity for outdoor visits,” Arcadia Care Administrator Paul Gallagher said.

“The family needs to call 24 hours in advance, and we will take their temperature and they will fill out a form before entering the area to meet their loved one,” he said. “Six feet of separation is required, and we monitor the outdoor area.”

Employees at Arcadia Care of Danville, which was formerly Danville Care until an ownership change in February, jumped at the chance to accommodate its residents so they could have a better in-person visit with their loved ones and started searching for large outdoor tents.

The facility now has two tents on its property; the second tent is for Arcadia’s New Focus wing.

“We hopped on this, and maintenance got the two tents up,” Juli Dean, Arcadia’s marketing director, said. “IDPH notified us on the 19th, and we acted on it quickly. We had the tents up on the 23rd.

“We were really motivated to do it for the families and get it put together as quickly as possible,” she said.

“I’m amazed,” resident Brent Hagen said of Arcadia’s efforts. “This tent they’ve set up is going to be a permanent thing. It’s nice.”

Although physical contact is still prohibited between the residents and their family members, Gallagher said the outdoor visits have made a significant impact on the overall well-being of everyone involved.

“The hardest part for our families is the lack of physical contact,” Gallagher admitted. “But it makes a huge difference in the psychological and emotional well-being of the resident and their family.

“The first family that came to visit . . . the resident left in tears because they were so happy,” he said.

Gallagher estimated that 10 to 15 outdoor visits have taken place in less than two weeks.

The resident’s family is required to schedule a visit at least 24 hours in advance by calling Arcadia’s front desk at 443-2955. Visiting times are from 2-5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and from noon to 2:30 p.m. Saturday. Visits are limited to two guests per resident and no children younger than 12.

“We try to keep the visits to a half hour, but if the time slot after that is open, we’ll let them stay a little longer,” Gallagher said.

“We’re happy to facilitate these families, and what we’ve found is an incredible amount of patience and understanding,” he said. “They understand the seriousness of the risk.”

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