New Brunswick

Families looking to connect with loved ones in nursing homes perfect the 'window visit'

Families across New Brunswick are looking for ways to keep in touch with loved ones in special care and nursing homes that are closed to visitors.

But, they still miss the hugs

Some Ottawa city councillors tweeted on Thursday they wanted the ban reversed, while others said it was necessary. (Pierre Fournier/CBC)

Debbie Warren stands outside the Grass Home in Riverview, looking through a pane of glass at her 98 year old mother.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are no visitors allowed. So Warren is outside, with her dogs Ellie and Emma, and Bessie Brown is inside waving furiously.

The two communicate by cell phone, which can be challenging because Brown has some issues with her hearing.

"What would you like for Easter, Mom?" Warren asks.

"What would I like for Easter? I would like to have the freedom." Brown replies. "The freedom for the kids to come into my house."

Families across the province are looking for ways to keep in touch with their loved ones in special care and nursing homes. From FaceTime, to pictures, videos and phone calls, staff and family members are trying to keep the lines of communication open.

Before the pandemic, Warren and five of her six siblings were regular visitors. One sister lives in Calgary.

Window visits are as close as New Brunswickers can get to their loved ones in nursing homes

2 years ago
Duration 3:03
What visits look like now between Riverview's Debby Warren and her mother Bessy Brown.

"Everyday before this all happened there was always someone who went to visit mom. We even have a little calendar that we sign and sometimes we get a "mommy lecture" if there's a blank day.' Warren said.

Now, they're getting creative. Warren does "window visits" with her mother several times a week.

"She loves to have us visit so when we show up now on the outside, she's even more excited. She is just beside herself." Warren said.

"If you're there 10 minutes or 15 or 20, she's there and her little hand is just waving with so much excitement. It's a big break in her day."

But not being able to touch her mother is difficult.

Bessie Brown lives at the Grass Home in Riverview. The 98 year old said she has never experienced anything like the pandemic in her life. (Debby Warren/Facebook)

"So I think it's that hug. We all need hugs right, whether it's our moms or our kids or even us, we all need hugs, we need that human touch."

Bessie Brown just moved into the facility in December after breaking her hip. She had lived in her own home before that.

Warren says she's thankful her mother had time to adjust to her new surroundings before the pandemic hit. And she's thankful to the staff for making the window visits possible.

Warren says her mother knows about COVID-19, and understands why visitors are not allowed.

Brown told her daughter she's never experienced anything like this in her 98 years.

Debby Warren brings her two dogs, Ellie and Emma, to visit her mother. (Kate Letterick/CBC News)

Warren has been doing window visits for the past few weeks, whether the skies are sunny, or if it's raining, and even through cold temperatures and blustery winds. 

She says it's important for her mother. And she recommends it to others, if possible.

"Even if it's only for five minutes, you know if you can just pull up and do a wave or I bring my dogs and it entertains, so I want them just to keep that contact." she said.

Brown says she can't wait until the pandemic is over and the visiting restrictions are lifted, so she can hug her mother again, in person.

"The hardest part of the visit is often when I leave and the other part is when she reaches to the window to touch my hand through the window." Warren said. "Those are pretty emotional for us."


Kate Letterick is a reporter with CBC New Brunswick.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?