Visiting nursing homes and residential care facilities

It’s important for residents in a nursing home or residential care facility to have regular visits from the people who are most important to them.

Up to 2 people can visit at a time in most cases. They can be different people each time or the same people all the time. The resident will decide if they want visits and who they want to see.

If more than around 1 in 5 residents in a nursing home or facility are not vaccinated, visiting may be more limited. But this is uncommon.

The nursing home or residential care facility can give you up-to-date information about visiting.

Proof of vaccination or immunity

Your visit will be safer for everyone if you have had your first round of COVID-19 vaccine and your booster dose, if it is available to you.

What do ‘booster dose’ and ‘first round of COVID-19 vaccination’ mean?

Booster dose

A ‘booster dose’ is the extra dose of COVID-19 vaccine used to give better protection to people who have already had their first round of COVID-19 vaccination.

Booster vaccines are currently only available to people aged 16 or older.

First round of COVID-19 vaccination

When we say ‘first round of COVID-19 vaccination’ we mean your dose 1 and dose 2 if you got AstraZeneca, Moderna or Pfizer. Or your single dose if you got the Janssen vaccine.

Children aged 5 and older can now get a COVID-19 vaccine.

If you have a weak immune system, you should have been offered an ‘additional dose’ to give you better protection. This is because your immune system may not respond as well to vaccination. You will still need a booster dose after this additional dose.

How long does it take COVID-19 vaccines to work?

For your booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine it takes 7 days for it to work.

For your first round of COVID-19 vaccination it takes:

  • 7 days after your second Pfizer/BioNTech dose for it to work
  • 15 days after your second AstraZeneca dose for it to work
  • 14 days after your second Moderna dose for it to work
  • 14 days after the Janssen single dose vaccine for it to work

Most nursing homes will ask you to show that you have completed your first round of vaccination.

When you go for a visit bring your ID and your:

  • EU Digital COVID Certificate
  • HSE COVID-19 vaccination record
  • COVID-19 Recovery Certificate

The staff may not ask for these every time, for example if you are a regular visitor. They may be able to make exceptions on compassionate grounds.

When you should not visit

Do not visit a nursing home or residential care facility if you have:

  • COVID-19
  • recently been tested for COVID-19 - wait until you are told it is safe for you to visit
  • symptoms of COVID-19 or any other infection, including a cold or flu
  • a stomach bug (gastroenteritis)

Symptoms of stomach bugs include diarrhoea and vomiting. If you have symptoms of a stomach bug, do not visit until you have no symptoms for at least 2 days.

If you have COVID-19, do not visit until your self-isolation period is over and you have no symptoms. If you are in doubt, check with your GP.

If there is a COVID-19 outbreak

Visiting will usually be limited if there is an outbreak of COVID-19 in the care home. These limits should be reasonable and in place for as short a time as possible.

Staff can make allowances for the resident’s needs. For example, if someone is coming to the end of their life. A resident should not be alone in this case if someone can be with them. The visitor must also understand the risk of infection.

You can discuss exceptions with the staff.  

Before your visit

Talk to the staff before your visit so they can:

  • note your contact details
  • ask if you have any symptoms of COVID-19
  • explain the precautions to follow when you visit

It's OK to bring a gift or anything else the person you're visiting may need.

During your visit

Before you enter the nursing home or residential care facility, staff will ask you if you have symptoms of COVID-19. They may also take your temperature.

Have your proof of vaccination or recovery with you, and your ID.

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

You must wear a face mask when you are in communal areas.

If you and the resident are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, you do not need to wear a face mask when you are alone together.

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

Going for a drive

It's usually OK for residents to go for a drive with their visitors if everyone is fully vaccinated and the facility has a high level of vaccination.

You do not need to wear face masks in the car if everyone is fully vaccinated.

If you are leaving the car, be sure to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.

Outdoor visiting

Outdoor visiting is OK even in an outbreak if:

  • staff can organise the visit - they need to be arranged in advance
  • the resident is OK to go outside
  • everyone can keep 2 metres apart at all times
  • the weather is suitable

Window visiting

Window visiting is always allowed. This is where a visitor stands outside and speaks to a resident at a safe distance through an open window or by telephone. 

Contact the staff if you want to arrange a window visit.

Last updated: 24 December 2021 at 9.15am

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