Overview

This guide explains what to expect when visiting a loved one and how you can help keep everyone safe.

Before your visit

Talk to the care home before your visit and make sure it’s a suitable time. This will let them plan for the number of visitors they’ll have that day. As part of this conversation, let them know if you’re an essential visitor or a designated visitor

Follow any guidance the care home gives you about pets, gifts, snacks, and anything else you want to bring in.

If you have coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms

Do not go to a care home if you feel at all unwell or have any symptoms of coronavirus.

If you’re an older adult, coronavirus symptoms can be a little different. So it’s important to stay at home if you feel at all unwell.

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.

Read more about coronavirus symptoms

Resuming indoor visiting checklist

These steps are a summary of the safety measures you can take when visiting care homes during the pandemic.

  1. Visits will take place at prearranged times. In the early phase, there will be up to two designated visitors per resident (visiting one at a time).
  2. You will only be allowed to visit if you are feeling well and do not have any coronavirus symptoms.
  3. You’ll be asked some health questions to ensure that you do not have symptoms of coronavirus.
  4. On arrival, you’ll be asked to take a coronavirus test. You should wear the mask provided by the care home. Staff will complete the visitor’s book.
  5. You’ll be asked to wash your hands and/or apply alcohol based hand gel regularly.
  6. Staff will provide an update on the resident’s wellbeing and any instructions to support safe visiting.
  7. Staff will clean visiting areas between visits.
  8. You are encouraged to maintain a 2 metre safe distance where possible and wear a face mask. It’s ok to hold hands for parts of your time together.
  9. When you are leaving the care home staff will tell you how to safely remove and dispose of your mask and any PPE and how to clean your hands.
  10. If you’re going home to someone vulnerable, you might want to consider going straight home, washing clothes separate to other laundry and taking a shower or bath.

Download the indoor visiting checklist (PDF, 497K KB)

SAFE HOMES

Everyone plays an important part in opening up safely. This SAFE HOMES advice outlines how family and friends can help keep everyone safe, and how the care home staff will help people visiting to keep their loved ones safe.

This was developed with input from:

  • care home residents’ relatives
  • care homes
  • clinical and professional staff

How family and friends visiting can help

SAFE stands for:

  • Staying at home if you are unwell
  • Arranging your visit in advance (and any changes)
  • Face coverings – wearing these and any other PPE required by the care home
  • Engaging with the care home – you’re partners in care and have a shared responsibility to follow advice and keep family and others safe, and take the test when offered it

How the care home will help

HOMES stands for:

  • Helping you to feel supported when visiting (for example being informed, having a safe and welcoming space, appropriate equipment, and providing on site coronavirus testing)
  • Open to your concerns and needs
  • Managing time with your loved ones in a safe manner
  • Essential visits arranged in partnership with you and your family member
  • Showing you how to visit safely

Coronavirus testing for people visiting care homes

People who are designated visitors to care homes will now be offered a test for coronavirus when they arrive. Regular testing of visitors can help to ensure everyone’s safety when combined with other infection prevention and control measures, like physical distancing. So, visitors are encouraged to take the test.

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’ll need to have a second test to confirm whether you have coronavirus. This test will need to be arranged separately.

Essential visitors

Testing essential visitors is not part of the care home visitor testing programme due to the pressing nature of many essential visits.

If you choose not to be tested

Testing is not mandatory – you can refuse the test if you want to. 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

Safeguards during your visit

The care home team can help you with the infection prevention control measures you’ll have to follow during your visit.

Safety advice

To keep everyone safe, when you arrive at the care home you should listen carefully to advice from staff about:

  • cleaning your hands (with soap or alcohol hand rub)
  • putting on and taking off a mask
  • any personal protective equipment (PPE) you’re asked to wear

Wearing a mask

When you arrive, the care home will provide you with a face mask. You should keep your mask on during your visit, as well as when travelling to and from the visiting area.

Do

  • ensure the mask covers your mouth, nose and chin
  • remove the mask from behind your ears (touching ties/loops only)
  • discard the mask in the bin
  • avoid touching or readjusting the mask once you’ve put it on

Don't

  • do not remove the mask to cough or sneeze
  • do not touch the front of the mask or readjust it
  • do not wear the mask under your chin, around your neck or over an ear
  • do not remove the mask to speak into your phone

Everyone visiting a care home should follow the advice on wearing a mask, unless you’re exempt.

Speak to the care home staff if you’re concerned a mask might make communicating with your loved one difficult.

Cleaning your hands

Wash your hands thoroughly or use hand sanitiser when you enter the care home or outside visiting space.

How to wash your hands

1. Wet hands with water. 2. Apply enough soap to cover all hand surfaces. 3. Rub hands palm to palm. 4. Right palm over the back of the other hand with interlaced fingers and vice versa. 5. Palm to palm with fingers interlaced. 6. Backs of fingers to opposing palms with fingers interlocked.
How to wash your hands steps 1 to 6
7. Rotational rubbing of left thumb clasped in right palm and vice versa. 8. Rotational rubbing, backwards and forwards with clasped fingers of right hand in left palm and vice versa. 9. Rinse hands with water. 10. Dry thoroughly with tower. 11. Use elbow to turn off tap. 12. And your hands are safe.
How to wash your hands steps 7 to 12

Steps 3 to 8 should take at least 15 seconds.

  1. Wet hands with water.
  2. Apply enough soap to cover all hand surfaces.
  3. Rub hands palm to palm.
  4. Right palm over the back of the other hand with interlaced fingers and vice versa.
  5. Palm to palm with fingers interlaced.
  6. Backs of fingers to opposing palms with fingers interlocked.
  7. Rotational rubbing of left thumb clasped in right palm and vice versa.
  8. Rotational rubbing, backwards and forwards with clasped fingers of right hand in left palm and vice versa.
  9. Rinse hands with water.
  10. Dry thoroughly with tower.
  11. Use elbow to turn off tap.
  12. And your hands are safe.

If you have a skin complaint, speak to your GP for advice.

The best way to wash your hands infographic

How to use hand sanitiser

  1. Take a single application of gel.
  2. Rub hands palm to palm.
  3. Rub palm over the back of hand interlacing fingers.
  4. Rub palm to palm interlacing fingers.
  5. Rub back of fingers to opposing palms with fingers interlocked.
  6. Rotational rubbing of thumbs.
  7. Fingertips cleaning palms.
  8. Allow hands to dry naturally.

Physical distance

Maintain physical distance, apart from times when touch is valuable to the resident and visitor. It’s okay to hold hands for some of your time together.

Closer contact

To support safe touch and closer contact, make sure you maintain good hand hygiene.

You can also consider if your loved one might be able to wear a mask.

Personal protective equipment (PPE)

Wear any PPE advised and provided by the care home. For example, you may be asked to wear additional PPE if you’re providing personal and direct care with your loved one.

The care home staff will show you the correct way to put on and take off your mask and other PPE.

Working together with the care home team

You might feel nervous about care home visiting, so it’s important that you and the care home communicate as much as possible.

Care home residents and their loved ones have a right to know:

  • the reasons that visiting decisions have been made
  • why visiting arrangements might be different in different care homes

Care homes can play a part in supporting residents and their loved ones by:

  • telling them about changes as quickly as possible
  • giving clear reasons for decisions

If you have any concerns about your loved one or questions about visiting, each care home will have a key person you can talk to. This is often the care home manager.

Keeping everyone safe

Work with the care home team to help protect yourself, your loved one, other residents and staff. You can do this by:

  • staying at home if you feel unwell or have symptoms of coronavirus
  • following safety advice
  • listening to all guidance carefully
  • trying to fit in with the timetable offered by the care home
  • taking time to read infection prevention and control measures in the care home
  • carrying your own hand sanitiser if you can
  • removing hand and wrist jewellery
  • being a role model to others by following the safety measures advised by the care home – even if you see others who are not
  • touching as little as possible, unless it’s part of the interaction with your loved one
  • respecting care home staff

Every care home will have different arrangements, depending on staffing levels and routines. The time for every interaction will be scheduled to be as safe as possible during these times.

By following this advice, you’re helping to protect against coronavirus transmission and providing support and reassurance to care homes.