Care home visits during coronavirus

Read our information on how visiting a care home may be different due to coronavirus, and how to prepare.

Page contents

  1. Visiting policies
  2. Who can visit care homes?
  3. Face coverings and distancing in care homes
  4. When you won't be allowed to visit a care home
  5. Challenging a decision on care home visiting
  6. Testing for coronavirus
  7. How do outdoor and 'screened' visits work in care homes?
  8. Managing your feelings when you visit
  9. Can I visit a person out of their care home?
  10. Visiting at end of life

If you have a question or concern that isn’t covered here, speak to the care home manager. See also the ways Alzheimer’s Society can provide support.

Visiting policies

Each care home will have their own visiting policy, which should be made available and communicated to residents and families. Care homes will work to support visits safely, while focusing on each resident’s needs.

Government guidance says that visits should take place in a room most practical and comfortable for the resident. For example, residents with dementia may be more comfortable in their own room with familiar belongings.

The manager will look at the following specific aspects:

  • The rights and wellbeing of residents – tailored in a person-centred way to the circumstances of each individual.
  • The benefits of visits to the person, and their individual risk from coronavirus.
  • Where and how visits will happen – based on the home’s layout.
  • Measures in place to control infection (PPE, social distancing and handwashing).

Ask your home about its visiting policy and how it supports the wellbeing of people with dementia including guidance for visitors. The home should also agree on a visiting plan with you as part of the person’s care plan.

Who can visit care homes?

There is no longer a limit on the number of visitors per care home resident.

There should also be no limit on how long visits can last, as long as visiting can be kept safe. Visitors should continue to make arrangements with the care home in advance so that the home can manage the number of people attending at any one time.

The government publishes national guidance on visiting care. Read the current guidance for:

Government guidance does not require any visitors or the resident to have had the COVID-19 vaccine for visits to go ahead. However some individual care homes may require this. See ‘Challenging a decision on care home visiting’ below for advice.

The guidance strongly recommends that everyone should be fully vaccinated. It is also recommended that people have a flu jab if they are eligible.  

People should avoid visiting if they have been in close contact with someone else who has tested positive for coronavirus. Visitors should also not enter care homes if they are feeling unwell, even if they have tested negative for coronavirus and are fully vaccinated. This is to avoid passing other illnesses to residents.

Visitors who provide close personal care

Some residents may need support with personal care from a close family member or friend who visits them in the care home.

Visitors who are providing personal care should wear appropriate PPE and have a negative COVID-19 lateral flow test result before entering the care home unless they are medically exempt. These tests should be arranged by the care home.

If these visitors attend once or twice a week, they should only test on the day they are visiting. If they visit more than twice a week, they should test a maximum of twice a week, three to four days apart.

Previously care homes used the term ‘essential caregiver’ to describe a person who could provide the resident with practical, emotional, or mental support. Now that normal visiting is in place again, this term is no longer being used.

Face coverings and distancing in care homes

You will need to wear PPE during your visit if you are providing personal care to a resident. Ask the care home to guide you on the appropriate PPE for the situation.

The government advises that all visitors to care homes should wear face masks. In some circumstances – where this causes distress to a resident, face masks may be removed when not in communal areas of the care home.

Visitors and residents who want physical contact – such as holding hands, should be supported to make this possible. This can help improve the person’s wellbeing. To allow this, safety measures such as ventilation in visiting spaces and hand washing procedures should be in place. Close physical contact – such as hugging – is riskier, but will be safer between people who are fully vaccinated.

When you won’t be allowed to visit a care home

You won’t be allowed to visit if you have:

If there is an outbreak of coronavirus (two or more confirmed cases), the care home may have different rules on indoor visiting . Every resident should be allowed one visitor inside the care home during an outbreak. It may be possible for outdoor or screened visits to continue for other visitors, subject to a risk assessment. 

Visiting someone who is nearing the end of their life should also always be supported. 

Challenging a decision on care home visiting

Government guidance states that visiting must be supported and enabled whenever it is possible and safe to do so.

Complete bans on visitors are not acceptable. If visiting the person in a care home continues to be a challenge for you both, let us know by sending an email to [email protected]. While we cannot advocate for individual cases, your information will help us understand the issues faced by visitors and inform our campaigning activity.

You should try to resolve any issues by talking with the care home manager first. You could also make a formal complaint to the care home using their complaints procedure – which they must tell you about. 

If you then need to challenge a decision, you should contact the adult social services team in your local council first. The government has published guidance on this.

Alternatively, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has regulatory powers that can be used if you have concerns over visiting. All decisions should be taken in light of general legal obligations, such as those under the Equality Act 2010 and Human Rights Act 1998, as applicable. You can contact the CQC online or by calling 03000 616161.

If the issue remains unresolved, you can complain to the local authority if they are paying for the care. If the care is self-funded, you can complain to the local government and social care ombudsman.

Testing for coronavirus

It is still a requirement for visitors to have a negative lateral flow test before every visit.

The government have announced that free COVID-19 tests will not be widely available from 1 April 2022 in England. You may have to pay for a test after this date. For visitors who are providing personal care to a resident, tests should be available for free from the care home.

We know that tests offer a vital reassurance for visitors seeking to protect care home residents.

Please join our campaign asking your MP to write to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Sajid Javid to keep free lateral flow testing for all care home visitors.

After a negative rapid test result

If you test negative (not infected) then the home should enable you to visit straightaway. You will still need to follow good hand hygiene and wear a face covering around the home.

After a positive rapid test result

If you test positive with the rapid test, you will not be able to visit that day. While you’re no longer required by law to self-isolate if you have COVID-19 in England, you are still advised to stay at home and avoid contact with other people.

How do outdoor and ‘screened’ visits work in care homes?

During an outbreak, outdoor and ‘screened’ visits may be arranged. They can allow the resident to see a wider range of family and friends.

Outdoor visits take place outside of the care home building. Being outside reduces the risk of coronavirus being spread. You can read more about other ways to keep the person with dementia safe and well

Depending on the home, its layout and the weather, for an outdoor visit you might be supported to:

  • chat through an open ground-floor window or patio door 
  • meet in a sheltered outdoor area
  • meet in a garden or marquee (or similar) space
  • have a ‘drive-through’ visit – where you talk through your open car window to the person sitting two metres away.

A ‘screened’ visit is when you meet from behind a screen in a temporary outdoor structure (sometimes called a ‘visiting pod’) or a conservatory. In a ‘screened’ visit:

  • you speak to the person from behind a see-through plastic screen
  • the area will be thoroughly cleaned between visits
  • expect the space to be well ventilated.

Managing your feelings when you visit

If it’s been a long time since you’ve seen the person with dementia you may feel emotional when you visit. If the person has memory problems, you may need to gently remind them who you are. 

Familiar aspects of your appearance such as clothes, a hairstyle and perfume/aftershave that the person associates with you may help them to remember.

Talking about times you’ve enjoyed together may be a way of keeping the conversation more cheerful. Speak clearly and louder than usual to be heard through your face covering.

Don’t be surprised if the person’s dementia has got worse since you last saw them or if they seem low. They may improve with ongoing support, and their feelings for you remain, even if they seem hidden.

Try to be flexible and work with everyone as best you can. Before you leave, arrange the next visit. This will give you and the person something to focus on and look forward to. 

Can I visit a person out of their care home?

Care homes should support residents to go out of the home for visits. Spending time with friends and family out of their care home is important for many residents. Some people will also have visits out, such as to a day centre, included in their care plan.

Care home residents no longer have to isolate after high-risk visits out of the care home. This includes after emergency hospital stays. They also do not have to take a coronavirus test after a visit out.

Visiting at the end of life

If you are visiting someone who is near the end of their life, the home should communicate clearly with you and involve you in all planning decisions.

End-of-life visiting should always be supported, and testing is not required in any circumstances for an end-of-life visit.

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