Last updated 27 July 2020:
Care home residents are able to receive visits from their loved ones again, following the publication of new government guidance.
Since March, all non-essential visits to care homes have been restricted because of the coronavirus crisis. But on the 22 July, the government updated the rules for visiting arrangements. Loved ones are now allowed to visit again but should be limited to a single visitor per resident where possible.
How to safely visit a loved one in a care home
The announcement should be welcome news if you have a loved one who lives in a care home. But if you’re planning a visit in the coming weeks, you’ll need to take the following precautions to protect care home residents and staff:
- Inform the care home in advance of visiting your loved one. The care home provider should consider whether the visit could take place in an outdoor area, which can be accessed without anyone going through a shared building.
- Wear a face covering and wash your hands for at least 20 seconds when you arrive.
- Depending on the nature of your visit, you may need to wear further personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves and an apron.
- You should have no contact with any other resident and minimal contact with care home staff.
- You won’t be able to visit if you are currently experiencing or have experienced coronavirus symptoms in the last 7 days.
- Staff may ask you some questions about your own health and any potential contact you may have had with coronavirus before you can enter.
If you need help contacting a care provider, search for their details on our Care Services Directory.
Is my loved one safe in a care home?
Most care homes have introduced rigorous measures to protect residents, including restrictions on external visitors, ramping up of hygiene procedures and extra training for staff.
- Care homes should follow social distancing, wherever possible, and observe ‘shielding’ measures for residents who are extremely vulnerable.
- Care homes should restrict all non-essential healthcare visits and reduce staff movement between homes.
- Staff and residents should be monitored daily for possible COVID-19 symptoms. Ideally, each resident should be assessed twice daily for signs of fever, a cough or shortness of breath.
- COVID-19 tests will be offered for staff members and residents in England whether they have symptoms or not.
- Care homes will be provided with extensive guidance on deep cleaning and how to prevent and control COVID-19 outbreaks.
- Residents who have symptoms should be isolated in a single room with a separate bathroom, where possible.
Find out more: Coronavirus: how to protect yourself and others
Coronavirus guidelines for care homes
The government has guidance for care home providers to reduce coronavirus outbreaks and protect residents and care staff. The key components are:
- Appropriate use of PPE: all staff should use personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep staff and patients safe.
- More testing: all care staff and care home residents are eligible for testing whether they have symptoms or not.
- Prompt reporting of infections: homes should report any confirmed or possible cases to their local health protection team, who will provide advice and support to manage the outbreak.
- Test and Trace: providers are being urged to support NHS Test and Trace by keeping a temporary record, including address and phone number of any visitors.
Are care homes still accepting new residents?
The latest guidelines allow care homes to accept new residents – and they are encouraged to do so – as long as they follow strict procedures agreed with local NHS authorities and their local council.
The government has pledged to arrange coronavirus tests for all new residents. And new residents can expect to be isolated in their room for at least 7 days after arriving at the home.
Despite this, some homes may feel that they are not currently equipped to take on new residents. If you are looking for a care home, check with individual providers on their current policy.
Home care guidance
Many older people, especially those living alone, rely on support provided in their own home by home care agencies. The government has issued guidance to home care providers to help them maintain delivery of vital care services.
The key points are:
- Reducing social contact: reducing the number of people that vulnerable people will come into contact with and reducing contact between staff.
- PPE: all home care staff should use personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep staff and patients safe.
- Testing: all social care workers and individuals receiving home care are eligible for testing whether they have symptoms or not.
- Close coordination with local authorities and NHS: care agencies should cooperate closely with local authorities and health services to ensure that care needs for the most vulnerable can continue to be met.
If your loved one receives support from a home care agency, contact the company to find out what safety measures and contingency plans they have in place. If you employ private care workers to support your loved one, make sure they understand and follow strict hygiene routines, as recommended by the NHS. Also ensure that an adequate supply of soap, towels and other hygiene products are available in the home.
Find out more: How to arrange care at home
Which? advice on coronavirus
Experts from across Which? have advice on everything from staying safe and keeping in touch with loved ones to travel insurance rights and saving money on your household bills. Click to see all the latest coronavirus advice and news from Which?.
This story was originally published on 18 March and is being regularly updated with the latest developments.