Bringing contact back to normal

Care homes are expected and encouraged to support meaningful contact between residents and their loved ones both in and out of the home unless there are exceptional circumstances.

People living in care homes are typically more vulnerable to severe illness as a result of coronavirus (COVID-19). So care homes continue to have coronavirus safeguards in place. Safeguards ensure that residents and relatives can spend meaningful and regular time together.

Safeguards include:

  • infection prevention and control measures
  • vaccination (including booster vaccines)
  • testing

It's important that meaningful contact is maintained for residents. Every individual care home should find the right way to do this. Speak to the care home to find out about their current arrangements.

Read the latest guidance from the Scottish Government on the remaining protective measures in adult care homes, including updates on visiting.

Safeguards will be reviewed regularly to ensure they're proportionate to the risk of coronavirus.

Visiting

Care homes should continue to support visiting and outings in all but exceptional circumstances.

Before you visit

There are no limits on how often residents can receive visitors in the care home. But visiting must remain safe and manageable for care home staff and the resident themselves. Care home staff may decide the number of visitors (including children) that a resident can have at any one time. Arrangements will be guided based on a number of factors. For example, the size of resident rooms and arrangements for managing visiting safely in the home.

Family and friends should check with the care home whether they need to arrange visits with the home in advance. Sometimes this can help to manage the number of people visiting at a time. The duration of visits should not be limited if safe visiting practices can be maintained.

You should not visit a care home or meet up with a resident if you:

  • have symptoms of or think you may have coronavirus (COVID-19) or any other respiratory virus
  • have tested positive for coronavirus
  • are a close contact of someone with coronavirus
  • are waiting on a PCR test result
  • have been self-isolating and have been able to end self-isolation early – you should only visit or meet a care home resident after 10 days

Children who are unwell should not visit care homes.

Anyone who visits an adult care home should take a lateral flow device (LFD) test. You may be asked to show proof of the recent negative LFD test before each visit. This includes family, friends, children over the age of 12 and visiting professionals. You may take the test at home before you visit. You can order LFD tests online or by phoning 119. If requested in advance, the home should be able to help you to carry out the test when you arrive at the care home.

If you visit multiple times per week you should test twice weekly, with 2 to 3 days between each test.

During your visit

Visitors can choose not to physically distance from the friends and family they are visiting. They can choose not wear a face mask or covering when in the resident's personal room. However, not wearing a face covering or maintaining physical distance can increase the risk of coronavirus transmission. Visitors should discuss this with the individual they are visiting and care home staff. 

All visitors should:

  • wear a face covering or mask in all communal areas of the care home
  • maintain 1 metre or more physical distance from care home staff and other residents and visitors
  • remain in their designated visiting area, for example the resident’s room
  • follow infection prevention and control measures as instructed by care home staff including increasing ventilation and hand hygiene – this is particularly important when visiting during an outbreak

Groups of external visitors, including community groups, are still not recommended to visit inside the care home. For example, school children and choirs. External visiting groups may perform outdoors in the care home grounds where residents can watch from a window inside the care home.

Routine visiting

Unless there's an outbreak in the care home or the resident is self-isolating, there are no limits to the frequency and duration of visits, as long as they can be managed safely.

Visiting a resident who is self-isolating

If the care home does not have an ongoing coronavirus outbreak, the care home should support residents who are self-isolating to have 1 visitor per day in their private room if they wish. This does not need to be the same person or a named visitor. Named visitor is applicable during outbreaks only.

If a resident tests positive for coronavirus, the care home should still support the resident to have 1 visitor per day. This can happen following a risk assessment by the care home team. Particular precautions will be required compared to normal visiting.

Visiting a resident during a care home coronavirus outbreak

When an care home has a coronavirus outbreak, residents can receive a visit from a named visitor once per day in their private room.

Residents or their representatives should be encouraged to identify up to 3 named visitors, though only one can visit at a time. Care homes should fully support visits by named visitors. This is to minimise the impact of self-isolation on the resident's wellbeing.

In some exceptional circumstances, the local health protection team may pause visiting. However, named visiting should resume as soon as possible once circumstances allow it.

Visitors should wear a fluid resistant surgical mask where possible. They should also follow all infection prevention and control measures as guided by the care home.

Residents who are not coronavirus cases or contacts do not need to self-isolate. They may use communal areas of the care home.

Care homes registered for adults

For residents living in adult care homes which are not registered as care home services for older people it may be possible to:

  • take LFD tests instead of self-isolating as a coronavirus contact
  • end self-isolation early with LFD testing if a coronavirus case

Residents or their representatives should discuss this with care home staff. An individual risk assessment is also needed in these settings.

Further guidance on visiting during outbreaks is available from Public Health Scotland:

Essential visiting 

An essential visit is when it's very important that a friend or relative is supported to have meaningful contact with their loved one. This includes for end of life care or for relief when someone is in distress.

An essential visit can take place at any time, including during an outbreak or, when a resident is in self-isolation. 

Essential visiting is in addition to named visiting.

Read further information on essential visiting from Public Health Scotland

Outings and activities away from the care home

Meeting others and taking part in activities away from the care home is an essential part of care home life. This may include staying overnight with family or friends.

Adult care homes should continue to support residents to take visits out. During an outbreak, care homes should risk assess outings for residents who are not cases or contacts. Based on the risk assessment this may mean some outings are temporarily paused, decreased, or rescheduled. Residents who are coronavirus (COVID-19) cases or contacts should self-isolate for 10 days. Outings will be paused during their self-isolation period.

Residents in care homes not registered as older people care homes may be exempt or able to end self-isolation early and go on outings. Residents or their representatives should discuss this with the care home. 

Residents, family, and friends who want to plan outings or activities should work together with the care home to arrange this. When residents take trips out of the care home, the following is advised:

  • residents and visitors are recommended to have had their coronavirus vaccinations, including booster if eligible
  • residents are recommended to avoid mixing with a large number of people indoors
  • everyone should follow good hand hygiene
  • everyone should wear face coverings as applicable
  • if the resident returns with symptoms or is identified as a contact of someone they were out with, they should self-isolate in line with care home guidance and get tested 

If you’re spending time with a resident outside of a care home, you should follow guidance on how to keep yourself and others safe

Even if you’re planning to meet outdoors, you should not meet care home residents if you think you may have coronavirus symptoms or any other illness.

Further guidance on outings is available from Public Health Scotland:

Raising concerns around visiting

The Care Inspectorate is the independent regulator for care homes. They advise care homes on good practice that helps people stay connected with their loved ones, have visits, and take part in their community. Where this support is not happening, they can use their powers to ensure it does.

The Scottish Government has introduced 2 new Health and Social Care Standards for care homes. These say that people living in care homes should:

  • have the right to see someone who is dear to them, even during a coronavirus outbreak
  • be able to name a person or people who can directly participate in meeting their care needs

You can read information on the Care Inspectorate website about your rights and visiting. The Care Inspectorate has published guidance for care homes on how they must implement visiting and the new standards.

If you have any questions about visiting you can contact the Care Inspectorate

Raising concerns around visiting

If you’re unhappy with the visiting arrangements in your loved one’s care home, you can talk with the care home manager or your named nurse or care worker.

You may still have concerns after discussing the issue with the care home. In this situation, ask for your concern to be considered through their existing complaints processes. The care home can tell you what these are and they should be readily available to you.

You can also complain to the Care Inspectorate if you have concerns about visiting or any aspect of the care provided. You can:

  • contact the Care Inspectorate at any time – you do not have to go to the care home first
  • ask for your complaint or concern to be kept confidential
  • speak to them informally – you do not have to make a formal complaint to ask for help
  • speak to the inspector to share your concerns

The Care Inspectorate can provide you with advice and guidance. The inspector can also:

  • speak to the care home to help improve visiting arrangements, in confidence if you’d like
  • make sure the care home is following care home visiting guidance

Further support

There are a number of organisations to help residents and their loved ones.

Action on Rights is one of the helplines available. It has been set up specifically to help anyone with a loved one living in a care home to have meaningful visits. They offer practical and emotional support to anyone who needs it. This support is not only for families and friends of people living with dementia. It's for anyone needing support. The team will also work with care homes to help facilitate visits where appropriate. This includes circumstance where family and friends view the contact with their loved one too restrictive. You can reach the Action on Rights team by phoning the free 24 hour Alzheimer Scotland helpline on 0808 808 3000.

The following helplines are also available and can provide information on visiting your loved ones in care homes. They can also give specialist advice on particular conditions:

Last updated:
19 April 2022