Bringing contact back to normal

Care homes continue to have a range of coronavirus (COVID-19) safeguards in place. Safeguards ensure that residents and relatives can spend meaningful and regular time together.

Safeguards include:

Residents’ contact with loved ones should continue to return to the way it was before the pandemic. Every individual home should find the right way to do this for them. Please speak to the care home to find out about their current arrangements.

The Scottish Government’s Open with Care guidance supports meaningful contact. It’s based on the best available advice from a range of experts. Family and friends of care home residents also had the opportunity to contribute.

People living in care homes continue to be more vulnerable to the serious harms of coronavirus. So it’s important that everyone works together to follow the safeguards that remain in place.

As we learn more about coronavirus, advice and guidance will develop further.

Indoor visiting: current coronavirus guidance

Visiting and outings should continue to be supported by care homes. In line with guidance for the general public it’s recommended that a maximum of 3 households meet at one time. This means each resident should meet with a maximum of 2 households inside the care home at any one time.

There should be no limits to how often visits can take place. This will be guided by care home visiting safety arrangements.

The duration of visits should not be limited if safe visiting practices can be maintained.

Anyone who visits an adult care home should take a lateral flow device (LFD) test before every visit. This includes family, friends, children, and visiting professionals. Visitors do not have to take an LFD test in exceptional circumstances. For example end of life or distress. All safeguards must continue to be followed.

All visitors to care homes should wear a Fluid Resistant Surgical mask (FRSM).

If a resident is in self-isolation visits should be supported by a named visitor. For adult care homes with a coronavirus outbreak, a named visitor may be able to visit the resident in their private room if the local health protection team has agreed this can happen.  Read the Scottish Government guidance on named visitors during outbreaks

Family and friends should arrange visits with the care homes in advance. This will help manage the number of people visiting at a time.

Do not visit a care home or meet up with a resident if you have symptoms of coronavirus.

When you visit a care home you’ll be asked to complete a 'COVID information form’ as well as the usual registration sheet.

You’re also asked to show proof of a recent negative lateral flow test. This can be done at home or, if requested in advance, the home should be able to help you to carry out the test when you arrive.

Read further information about safeguards when visiting an adult care home

Outings and activities away from the care home

Residents might wish to meet people outdoors, and away from the care home.

Activities could include:

  • going for a walk
  • meeting in a public place like a park or café
  • staying overnight with family

Adult care homes who do not have a coronavirus outbreak should continue to support residents to take visits out.

When residents take trips out of the care home the following is advised:

  • residents should take an LFD test before leaving the care home and after returning from visits out (this means the day after the initial test) and should test every other day for up to 14 days, unless this would cause harm or distress
  • if the resident returns with symptoms, they must self-isolate in line with care home guidance and get a PCR test
  • anyone meeting residents outwith the care home should take regular LFD tests, and receive a negative LFD test on the day of the visit
  • residents and visitors are recommended to have had their coronavirus vaccinations including booster if eligible
  • residents should avoid mixing with a large number of people indoors
  • everyone should follow good hand hygiene
  • everyone should wear face coverings as applicable
  • everyone should keep a distance wherever possible

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

Residents, family and friends who want to plan outings or activities should work together with the care home team in advance.

Residents can take car trips out as long as they follow safety guidelines and use infection prevention and control measures.

It’s possible for residents to visit other people in their homes or have overnight stays away. This could be in the resident’s own home or someone else’s home.

Care home residents should follow the same coronavirus guidance as everyone else when meeting people away from the care home.

If you’re spending time with a resident outside of a care home, you should follow protective measures.

Before visiting, please speak to the care home about whether you should take a coronavirus test in your own home or at the care home.

Children and young people visiting

Children and young people can visit indoors or outdoors and should be included in any group size limits. This includes essential visits, where desired.

During essential visits, children and young people should follow advice from the care home on:

  • infection prevention and control
  • personal protective equipment

Children over 12 years old should take a lateral flow device (LFD) test before or on arrival at the care home. If needed, a parent or guardian can help with this.  

Organised groups of children and young people are not currently recommended to visit care homes. For example, community groups or choirs. This is because many children and young people aren’t vaccinated and there’s a higher risk of infection.

Visiting a care home during a coronavirus outbreak

Care homes have regular testing in place to find any cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) as quickly as possible.

When you can you visit during an outbreak?

The care home and the local health protection team will decide if visiting is safe during an outbreak in the home. A risk assessment will have to be done before visiting can be allowed.

The decision is based on factors such as:

  • the scale of the outbreak
  • the outbreak’s impact on the care home
  • care home staffing levels
  • infection prevention and control measures

Named visitors during an outbreak

If an outbreak of coronavirus in the care home is considered to be managed, a named visitor can continue to visit a resident within the home. If you would like to be a named visitor, speak to your loved one and the care home manager or visiting coordinator.

Restricted visiting is normally in place for about 14 days from the last case being found.

If you’re a named visitor, you should follow all existing visiting advice, including:

  • being fully vaccinated against coronavirus unless you’re medically exempt – this is strongly recommended
  • lateral flow device (LFD) testing
  • face coverings
  • hand hygiene
  • physical distancing – but you can help with the resident’s care
  • restricting movement within the care home

During an outbreak, care home staff will have a range of extra tasks to protect all residents.

Essential visits can continue at all times.

A named visitor can also visit if the resident is isolating:

  • after a hospital stay
  • because they have tested positive

Essential visitors

There are many situations when contact between a resident and their loved ones is essential.

Essential visits should be supported at all times and at all stages of the pandemic. Care homes are asked to support these visits.

Essential visiting circumstances include:

  • where visiting may help with communication difficulties
  • where visiting will ease significant personal stress or distress for the resident and/or their family
  • where there are significant concerns about the resident’s health and wellbeing
  • other pressing circumstances – for example, where there is concern that the resident may be approaching end of life

People providing spiritual care are also essential visitors, in urgent and non-urgent circumstances.

Safeguards when visiting an adult care home

Visiting should feel as normal as possible. However there are some steps that can be taken to keep you, your loved one and others safe.

Before your visit

You should postpone your visit if:

  • you have any symptoms of coronavirus
  • you have tested positive for coronavirus in the last 10 days
  • anyone in your household or anyone you have been in close contact with has symptoms of coronavirus
  • you’ve been advised to self-isolate by Test and Protect
  • you’re in quarantine after travel (unless the visit is in exceptional circumstances)
What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

The most common symptoms are:

  • a new continuous cough
  • fever/high temperature (37.8C or greater)
  • loss of, or change in, sense of smell or taste (anosmia)

A new continuous cough is where you:

  • have a new cough that’s lasted for an hour
  • have had 3 or more episodes of coughing in 24 hours
  • are coughing more than usual

A high temperature is feeling hot to the touch on your chest or back (you don’t need to measure your temperature). You may feel warm, cold or shivery.

Do not visit if you’re at all unwell, for example with flu or norovirus or you have symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, diarrhoea or vomiting. 

Steps to support safety measures

There are safety measures you can take when visiting care homes during the pandemic.

  1. Take a coronavirus test or confirm if you have a negative test result if you’ve taken the test in your own home. 
  2. Wear a face covering or any personal protective equipment as told by the care home staff. You can remove your face covering to eat and drink.
  3. Thoroughly wash your hands and/or apply alcohol based hand gel on arrival and at appropriate times during your visit.
  4. Maintain at least a 1 metre safe distance where possible. It’s ok to hold hands for parts of your time together and help with your loved one’s personal care if that’s what they’d like.

Coronavirus testing for people visiting care homes

Regular testing of visitors can help keep everyone safe when combined with other safety measures. So visitors are encouraged to take the test before visiting.

Please confirm with the home whether you should take your test in your own home or at the care home. 

Lateral flow device test

The lateral flow device test will allow you to be tested immediately before a visit. It’s a swab test that gives results in around 30 minutes. This test doesn’t need to be sent to a lab. 

The test checks if you're infectious, even if you don’t have symptoms. If you test positive you will not be able to visit. 

You should take your test on the same day as visiting the care home. You may need to show the care home proof of your negative test result when you arrive.

Get a lateral flow device test to do at home

Report your test result

Essential visitors

Testing essential visitors is not part of the care home visitor testing programme due to the pressing nature of many essential visits. You may still wish to take a test.

If you choose not to be tested

Testing is not mandatory – you can refuse the test if you want to, however testing is strongly recommended. You’re encouraged to talk to the care home about your reasons for this.

Read more about testing for visitors in care homes

Read more about arranging a coronavirus test

How decisions are made about visiting in care homes during the coronavirus pandemic

A group of experts in each area make recommendations about visiting safely in care homes. This is known as local oversight arrangements. The group includes experts in:

  • public health
  • nursing
  • infection prevention
  • health protection
  • social work

The care home manager makes decisions about visiting for their individual care home. They work to balance the safety and needs of the entire group of residents, and the safety and needs of each individual resident.

The care home manager considers factors such as:

  • current national advice for preventing coronavirus infection – for example, guidance around protection measures
  • advice from public health – for example, whether an outbreak is ongoing in their area
  • the circumstances of individual visitors and residents

Raising concerns around visiting

If you’re unhappy with the visiting arrangements in your loved one’s care home, please talk with the care home manager in the first instance.

Complaints processes

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 will be able to tell you what these are.

Care Inspectorate

You can contact the Care Inspectorate if you have concerns about any aspect of the care provided. This includes concerns about visiting. 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 Open with Care guidance

Access further advice and support

For many people, reconnecting will be an emotional time. An Action on Rights team has been set up 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. For example, in 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 organisations can provide information on visiting your loved ones in care homes. They can also give specialist advice on particular conditions:

Find more information

Read the latest Scottish Government guidance on care home visiting

Read the Care Inspectorate’s information for care home services 

Read information from Alzheimer Scotland on how care homes can support residents and their loved ones during the coronavirus pandemic