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.
young man wearing mask

Last updated 8 April 2021

New guidance from 12 April 2021

From Monday 12 April, residential care providers can arrange for visits to residents from two named visitors and a single essential care giver. Visitors who are parents will also be able to visit with babies and very young children, who will not count as one of the visitors. 

Government guidance setting out these arrangements replaces previous guidance which allowed single named visitors. 

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

Can I visit someone in a care home? 

All care home residents can nominate two named visitors for indoor visiting. These visits will be supported by providing visitors with rapid lateral flow device (LFD) tests on every visit and appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). This includes patients on the shielded patient list (SPL). Being on the SPL does not prevent a care home resident from receiving visitors in the same way as other residents. 

Those with greatest care and support needs can also benefit from personal care from a nominated 'essential care giver'. With the agreement of the care home, these carers will be able to visit their loved ones more often and will have access to the same testing and PPE as care home staff to provide close contact support, such as washing, dressing or eating. 

With agreement of the care home manager, named visitors may also bring babies and very young children (a definition for this is provided as under the age of 2, but at the discretion of the care home manager). 

For those not nominated as named visitors, visits can still be arranged outdoors, in visiting 'pods', behind windows, or behind substantial screens. 

It is recommended that care homes operate a simple booking or appointment system to enable visits. 

In the event of outbreaks, care homes should immediately stop visiting (except in exceptional circumstances, such as end of life) to protect vulnerable residents, staff and visitors. 

Vaccination is not mandatory and is not a condition of visiting, however it is strongly recommended that all visitors and residents take up the opportunity to be vaccinated when they are invited to do so through the national programme. 

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? 

If you are visiting a care home resident as a named visitor, you will be required to take a rapid LFD test and test negative before every visit. If visitors test positive, they must immediately return home, self-isolate and complete a further test which will be provided to them by the care home.

The care home provider should provide full details on their testing process and obtain consent from visitors prior to their participation in testing.

If you have arranged with your local care home to be a resident’s ‘essential care giver’, you will be supported to follow the same testing arrangements in place for care home staff.

Those visiting loved ones indoors at the end of their lives may be offered a test on arrival for their visit, but those visiting residents outdoors will not require a test. However, if visitors are displaying any symptoms of coronavirus, they should not visit the care home, self-isolate and order a test immediately.

All visitors may be asked screening questions upon arrival. These may 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 tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 10 days?
  6. 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?
  7. Have you returned from an overseas visit recently and are you still in the quarantine period?

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

Indoor visits may take place in designated visiting rooms, but in all cases, they should take place in a well-ventilated room. Those visiting indoors must observe strict social distancing from other residents, visitors and staff at all times, and follow care home policies in place for testing and use of appropriate PPE.

There may be some instances where visits are supervised, for example during a visitor’s first visit. This should be clearly explained in the care home’s visiting policy.

Any additional visits should take place where possible outside. Other 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.

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

Named visitors should be tested using rapid LFD tests before every visit, must wear the appropriate PPE, and follow all other infection control measures. The Care home will guide visitors on infection control measures.

Visitors and residents may wish to hold hands but are advised to keep physical contact to a minimum as any contact increases the risk of transmission.

Visitors should also be careful to ensure they observe strict social distancing from other residents, visitors and staff at all times.

How often can I visit a care home?

Care homes will decide how often and for how long it is possible for named visitors to come into the home. This is likely to be depend on practical considerations, such as the layout of the home and the numbers of residents and families who may wish to have visits. In practice this may mean that the frequency of visits is limited, however, local Directors of Public Health may provide advice to homes allowing more regular visiting if they are confident that infection control measures and other arrangements are in place.

For outdoor visits, the guidance recommends a maximum of two visitors at any one time.

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 it is recommended that visiting be restricted, 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.

Help make a difference to care homes in Sutton 

Sutton's care homes have had to respond to the impact of COVID-19 since March 2020. 

We want to know your experiences as a staff member, resident or family member/friend of a care home resident during this time so we can help make your experience and that of residents' better in the future. 

Share your experience 

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

Guidance from 12 April 2021 states visits out of care homes can be allowed for residents of all ages. 

These visits will be subject to agreement with homes and based on risk assessments and the negative test results of residents and their loved ones. Care homes should provide full details of out of home visiting policies to residents and their loved ones. 

However, residents making a visit out of the care home should isolate for 14 days on their return (the day of return is day 0).

Care homes should also 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 will also require isolation of residents on return to homes. 

In the event of an outbreak in a care home, the home should immediately stop outward visiting. 

Read the guidance for visit 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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