COVID-19: What you need to know when visiting a care home

Take a look at what the guidance around visiting your loved ones in care homes means in practice.
Man in care home wearing a face mask

Last updated 13 January 2021

National Lockdown

A rise in COVID-19 cases has led to the announcement of a third national lockdown in England.

Whilst the first priority in care homes remains to prevent infections and protect staff and residents, indoor visits are no longer encouraged by government guidance. Instead, guidance once again recommends that care homes provide safe outdoor and ‘screened’ visiting opportunities as new national restrictions come into effect.

We will update this page with more information when new guidance is available.

This guidance has been taken from gov.uk.

Go to full guidance

For the most up to date guidance, including information of what should be included in your care home’s visiting policy, visit the Gov.uk website.

Find out more

See also the guidance for supported living settings.

How do I find out the visiting policy of a care home?

Each home is unique, so providers will design their own visiting arrangements that take into account the needs of their residents and what is possible within the layout and facilities of that home.

In producing these policies, providers should work collaboratively with residents, families and local social care and health professionals to strike a good balance between the risks and benefits of visiting.

Visiting policies should be made available and/or communicated to residents and families.

Do I need to take a test to be able to visit my relative?

Not for outdoor or ‘screened’ visits, however if you are displaying any symptoms of coronavirus you should not visit the care home, self-isolate and order a test immediately.

Those visiting loved ones indoors at the end of their lives may be offered a test on arrival for their visit.

All visitors may be asked screening questions upon arrival. These include:

  1. Have you been feeling unwell recently?
  2. Have you had recent onset of a new continuous cough?
  3. Do you have a high temperature? A care home may consider providing a temperature check for all visitors to provide confidence to visitors and to staff.
  4. Have you noticed a loss of, or change in, normal sense of taste or smell?
  5. Have you had recent contact (in the last 14 days) with anyone with COVID-19 symptoms or someone with confirmed COVID-19 – if yes, should you be self-isolating as a family member or as a contact advised to do so by NHS Test and Trace?

What is likely to change when I visit my loved one?

You can expect to see a number of changes but remember they are to keep you and your loved ones safe. These include:Visits should take place outside, but due to the winter weather, if this is not possible, appropriate visits include:

  • Visits under a cover such as an awning, gazebo or open-sided marquee, where residents and visitors remain at least 2 metres apart.
  • Visits in temporary outdoor structures, such as COVID-secure visiting areas/pods which are enclosed to some degree but are still outside the main building of the home. These areas can only allow one visiting party at a time, will require good ventilation and screens between residents and visitors.
  • Visits in a dedicated room such as a conservatory, which can be accessed from outside of the home. These areas can only allow one visiting party at a time, will require good ventilation and screens between residents and visitors.
  • Visits at a window.
  1. Visitors should enter visiting spaces from outside wherever possible. Where there is a single access point to the space, the resident and visitor must enter at different times to ensure safe distancing.
  2. Care workers will use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in line with guidance from Public Health England
  3. In all cases, appropriate PPE must be used by visitors throughout the visit and around the care home building and grounds.
  4. Social distancing (between visitors and residents, staff, and visitors from other households) must be maintained at all times during the visit, and around the care home building and grounds
  5. Care homes with an ‘open door’ policy may have to work towards a more regimented booking system. Ad hoc visits should not be allowed.
  6. Care homes should support NHS Test and Trace by keeping a temporary record (including address and phone number) of current and previous residents, staff and visitors, as well as keeping track of visitor numbers and staff.
  7. Visitors should have no contact with other residents and minimal contact with care home staff (less than 15 minutes / 2 metres). Where needed, conversations with staff can be arranged over the phone following an in-person visit

What should I do to keep the person I am visiting safe?

Visitors should wash their hands for 20 seconds using soap and hot water or use hand sanitiser on entering and leaving the home., They should also catch coughs and sneezes in tissues and clean their hands after disposal of the tissues.

Visitors will be provided with PPE for indoor visits to those at the end of their lives.

How often can I visit a care home?

Your local care home will outline details for the frequency of visits in their visiting policies, which should be shared with all residents and their loved ones.

The new guidance does recommend that visits should be limited to a single constant visitor, per resident, wherever possible.

There should be an absolute maximum of 2 constant visitors per resident (taking into account individual residents’ circumstances).

This is in order to limit the overall numbers of visitors to the care home and the consequent risk of disease transmission.

What happens if there is an outbreak at the care home?

If there is a declared outbreak in a care home, then visiting will need to be restricted further, with only ‘end of life’ visits recommended. These restrictions will continue until the care home has been assessed to be in recovery. You should be informed of this.

What happens if I can’t see my family or friend in the care home?

If providers are unable to safely allow visits in line with new guidance, alternative ways of communicating between residents and their families and friends should be discussed and offered. The care home should also provide regular updates to residents’ loved ones on their mental and physical health, how they are coping and identify any additional ways they might be better supported, including any cultural or religious needs.

Visits to a COVID-19 positive resident should only be made in essential circumstances (for example, end of life).

Get in touch with your local Healthwatch

Do you want to talk to someone about what these changes mean for care homes near you? Your local Healthwatch can help.

Find your nearest Healthwatch

Can a care home resident come and visit me out of the care home?

Care homes should support visits out of homes in exceptional circumstances, such as to visit to a friend or relative at the end of their life. These visits can only happen in agreement with the home and will be subject to individual and whole home risk assessments.

Read the guidance for visits out of care homes

The government have now published guidance for visits out of care homes. To find out more, please visit the Gov.uk website.

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