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

Take a look at what the latest guidance around visiting your loved ones in care homes means in practice.
Man wearing a face mask looking out of a window

New Guidance from 17 May 2021

From Monday 17 May, care home residents will be able to have five named visitors for indoor visits. 

Residents will also have more opportunities to leave their care homes to go on walks or visit a friend or family member's garden and not self-isolate on their return.

Key changes

  • If you live in a care home, the number of named visitors you are allowed will increase from two to five.
  • You will no longer have to self-isolate after visiting a GP, dentist or day centre.
  • Following a COVID-19 outbreak at a care home, visits will only pause for a minimum of 14 days rather than 28 days.

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 five named visitors for indoor visiting.  A maximum of two visitors will be allowed at any one time or on any given day.

These visits will be supported by providing visitors with rapid lateral flow device (LFD) tests on every visit and appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).

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 two, 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 appointments 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 visit a care home?

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. In most circumstances this will not be necessary, but where used, 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 two 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.

As is the case with visitors of all ages, there should be no close physical contact between babies or young children and the residents they are visiting. Children aged 11 and over should wear the same PPE as adult visitors. Children under the age of 3 should not wear masks for safety reasons.  

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.

There will be opportunities for more family members and friends to come for a visit – not just the five named visitors.

But these visits will need to take place in a different way. For example:

  • Outdoors, including at a window;
  • in a special ‘visiting pods’ if the care home has one; 
  • or in a room with a screen between you and the resident.

These visits still need to be agreed upon with the care home, and you will probably need to book an appointment. It is also important to observe good social distancing and follow any instructions the care home gives you.

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.

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

Yes. New guidance states visits out of care homes can be allowed for residents of all ages. 

Visits out of the care home will be planned in consultation with the family and care home managers, subject to testing requirements and risk assessments to protect residents.

Activities outside of the care home that will not require self-isolation include:

  • outdoor visits to parks, beaches or gardens
  • medical appointments
  • visiting day centres
  • attending educational settings
  • going to work

In the event of an outbreak in a care home, the home should immediately stop outward visiting (except for exceptional circumstances).

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.