Supporting routine visiting in care homes

Care homes are expected and encouraged to support meaningful contact between residents and their loved ones both in and out of the home.

Ordinarily, there should be no restrictions to the frequency or length of visits or outings, unless there is a coronavirus (COVID-19) or other infectious outbreak within the home or any other issue.

During outbreaks, the local Health Protection Team might advise a pause on routine visiting. People living in care homes should still be able to see their named visitors. Essential visits for circumstances such as end-of-life or distress for the resident or relative should always be supported.

As a relative or friend of a care home resident, when there is no outbreak in the care home, you can:

  • visit with other people, although numbers may be limited by room size
  • visit your loved one in their room without the need for either of you to wear a face covering or physically distance
  • hug and kiss the person you are visiting, recognising that there are still some risks of spreading coronavirus and other infections
  • help with personal care tasks – please discuss this with the care home first who will advise on infection prevention and control measures
  • organise day trips and outings or have your loved one to stay over
  • bring children or babies to the care home
  • organise with the care home to bring pets

Read the latest guidance from the Scottish Government on the remaining protective measures in adult care homes, including updates on visiting.

Community groups can now also visit care homes (including older adult care homes).


Before you visit

People living in care homes are typically more vulnerable to severe consequences and illness as a result of coronavirus (COVID-19) and other infections.

As a friend or relative please:

  • do not visit if you have coronavirus symptoms or if you have tested positive for coronavirus or have any other symptom of infectious illness – instead, follow the stay at home advice and avoid meeting others, including care home residents during this time
  • you should be fully vaccinated against coronavirus (and other infectious diseases) given many people living in care homes are at risk of more severe illness from infections; however, vaccination is not obligatory for visits
  • avoid visiting the care home and meeting up with residents if you live with someone who is following the stay at home advice
  • do not bring children to visit at care homes if they're unwell

During your visit

As a relative or friend, you do not need to physically distance from your loved one or wear a face covering or mask while you are visiting.

You should follow any infection prevention and control measures as instructed by care home staff. This may include remaining vigilant for any coronavirus or respiratory symptoms, improving ventilation and performing hand hygiene.

Visiting during a care home outbreak

During a coronavirus or other outbreak in the home, some temporary restrictions may be in place. However, you'll usually be able to:

  • spend time with your loved one in their room if you are one of their named visitors
  • spend time outdoors in the grounds of the home or organise an outing from the care home with your loved one if they do not have an infectious disease, in line with an individual’s care plan
  • embrace your loved one, although you should refrain from close physical contact if they have coronavirus or symptoms of coronavirus or other infection
  • communicate through other means such as phone or video calls, letters, emails, cards or photographs; window visits can usually also be arranged, if preferred

If visiting during an outbreak, staff may advise you to follow additional infection prevention and control measures. This may include physical distancing and wearing a face mask and other PPE as instructed.

During outbreaks, visiting arrangements will be reviewed by the local public health team following a risk assessment. This is part of their required duties and it will involve the care home.

Essential visiting

This is to enable people to spend time with their loved one to ease situations of distress or upset for the resident or relative or in end of life situations. It's available during coronavirus and other outbreaks. It's not restricted or limited to named visitors. Children can also be essential visitors in end of life situations.

Outings and activities away from the care home

Meeting others and taking part in activities away from the care home is a part of care home life. This might include staying overnight with family or friends.

All care homes should continue to support residents to take visits out.

If there's an outbreak in a care home or residential setting, service users who are not symptomatic or confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) may leave the setting to go on outings. Such outings should be discussed and arranged with staff, in line with the service users' care plan and the overall management of the outbreak. Sometimes this may not be possible.

Residents in older adult care homes who are coronavirus cases should self-isolate for a minimum of 5 days and until they have been fever-free for at least 48 hours without using medication to control their temperature (for example paracetamol). Outings should be paused during their self-isolation period. They can still receive one visitor in their private room each day.

If you're planning to meet outdoors, you shouldn't meet care home residents if you think you may have coronavirus symptoms or any other illness.

While on outings you should follow guidance on how to keep yourself and others safe. This includes continuing to wear a face covering in indoor public places and on public transport.  

If the resident becomes aware they've been in contact with a coronavirus case while on an outing, they should advise care home staff. The resident and staff should remain vigilant for symptoms.

Further guidance on outings is available from Public Health Scotland:

Raising concerns around visiting

The Care Inspectorate is the independent regulator for care homes. They advise care homes on good practice that helps people stay connected with their loved ones. Where this support is not happening, they can use their powers to ensure it does.

The Scottish Government has introduced 2 new Health and Social Care Standards for care homes. These say that people living in care homes should:

  • have the right to see someone who is dear to them, even during a coronavirus outbreak
  • be able to name a person or people who can directly participate in meeting their care needs

You can read information on the Care Inspectorate website about your rights and visiting. The Care Inspectorate has published guidance for care homes on how they must implement visiting and the new standards.

If you're unhappy with the visiting arrangements in your loved one’s care home, you can talk with the care home manager or your named nurse or care worker.

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.

You can also complain to the Care Inspectorate if you have concerns about visiting or any aspect of the care provided. 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 care home visiting guidance

Further support

There are a number of organisations to help residents and their loved ones.

Actions on Rights is a service provided by Alzheimer Scotland. The team can support people affected by dementia. They provide information, advice and guidance on your rights as a person living in a care home or a friend or family member wanting to visit.

You can reach the Action on Rights team by:

The following helplines are also available and can provide information on visiting your loved ones in care homes. They can also give specialist advice on particular conditions:

Last updated:
18 May 2023