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Visiting nursing homes and residential care facilities

Visits to all nursing homes and residential care facilities are suspended until 7 December. From then, 1 visit by 1 person per week can be arranged at levels 3 and 4 of restrictions. At level 5, this changes to 1 visit by 1 person every 2 weeks.

Anybody can become infected with COVID-19 (coronavirus).

Even if you have a very mild infection or no symptoms you can still pass on the virus to someone else. COVID-19 can make anyone seriously ill. But for some people, the risk is higher. This includes older people and people who have health problems.

The infection can spread very quickly and can do a lot of harm if it gets into a nursing home or a long term residential care facility (LTRCF).

Read more about how COVID-19 is spread.

Critical and compassionate visits

Visits to all nursing homes and residential care facilities are suspended at this time.

The only exceptions to this are visits for critical and compassionate circumstances. For example, end of life.

Other examples of critical and compassionate circumstances may include:

  • where a resident is very distressed or disturbed and a visit from someone close to them might help to calm them down
  • when there is an exceptionally important life event for the resident
  • when you may not have another opportunity to visit for many months or years for example, because you are leaving the country or are approaching end of life
  • if a resident needs to see someone to make financial or other arrangements or to advocate on their behalf

If you need to visit for critical and compassionate circumstances, you should follow the advice below to keep everyone safe.

Before you visit

The nursing home or facility will usually ask for contact details for named visitors in advance.

Talk to the staff before your visit. They will usually give you a specific time slot. You will have to come and leave at the agreed times.

You will be asked some questions before you visit to make sure you do not have any symptoms of COVID-19. You might need to have your temperature taken before you enter the facility.

The management of the facility has the right to decide if visiting is possible or not. It can be distressing if you cannot visit your loved one. Any restrictions are only in place to keep you, your loved one and healthcare staff safe.

Residents may be allowed to leave with a visitor if they have something very important they need to do. It may also be a very important personal need, such as something related to a family death or a visit to a family grave.

Read about minding your mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

During your visit

You will have to wear a face covering or face mask during your visit.

Even when you are alone together and 2 metres apart, you should continue to wear a face covering.

In some circumstances it may be better to remove the mask if wearing one:

  • makes it harder for you and your loved one to communicate
  • means your loved one may not be able to recognise you
  • may upset your loved one

If you find it difficult to wear a face covering, it's okay to wear a full face visor or face shield instead. They are not as good as wearing a face covering, and may not fully protect your loved one or yourself but you'll still get some level of protection. You may also be asked to wear a protective apron.

You will still need to do all the other things to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.

Wash your hands properly before and after you enter the resident's area.

It is OK to bring a gift or other things they need when you visit.

Visits are usually limited to 1 hour. Talk to the staff if you need a longer visit for compassionate reasons.

If there is a COVID-19 outbreak

Visiting will usually not be possible if there is an outbreak of COVID-19 in the home or facility. There will be exceptions in special situations. For example, if someone is coming to the end of their life or the outbreak is in a confined area. You can discuss this with the staff.

When you should not visit

Do not visit if you have:

If you have any of these symptoms, wait until at least 2 days after any symptoms have gone before visiting.

If you are a close contact, you will need to wait until you have restricted your movements for 14 days.

If you have been tested for COVID-19, do not visit until you are told that it is safe to do so.

Related content

People at higher risk from COVID-19

Community support during the COVID-19 pandemic

Hospital service updates and visiting restrictions (COVID-19)

Last updated: 1 December 2020 at 8.20am

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