Christmas and New Year are an important time for many residents and their loved ones. This guidance aims to reiterate existing national guidelines that all care homes should safely resume indoor visiting where recommended. Ideally, care homes should seek to achieve this for the coming festive period where that has not already been done. The guidance also sets out specific safeguards that care homes can put in place to support festive activities while continuing to manage transmission risk.
Balancing the serious risks posed by the virus to care home residents with the ability to see friends and family throughout any holiday period remains challenging. However, recognising the beneficial effects of participating in festive events and ensuring that visiting can take place is crucial to the wellbeing of residents and their families and friends.
The UK-wide relaxation of restrictions between 23rd and 27th December does not apply to visiting people in care homes or residents. The safest way to spend Christmas and protect care home residents, if people want to visit someone in a care home, would be to stay within your own household and not form a bubble with any other household.
Visiting to adult care homes throughout the Christmas and New Year period remains linked to the local level of restrictions. For areas in Level 4 only essential visits are recommended alongside window and garden visits, if Directors of Public Health judge this to be safe. In some exceptional circumstances indoor visiting may be permitted by the Director of Public Health following a risk assessment and discussion with the care home and local oversight team.
For those wishing to celebrate over the Christmas and New Year period (including relatives or loved ones), visiting and associated activities should be seen as imperative, and supported generously and sympathetically, whenever it is safe to do so. It is important that decisions are made carefully and proportionately, especially decisions that involve the protection of rights, such as the right to religious freedom and to a family life.
Advice for visiting family and friends
- Visit loved ones – if safe to do so, note existing national visiting recommendations continue
- Bring gifts into the care home, liaising with care homes first to arrange
- Travel into and out of Levels 3 and 4 to visit loved ones in care homes – this is exempt from the national restrictions
- Always have an essential visit if needed, no matter the stage in the pandemic
- Remember, the safest way to spend Christmas and protect care home residents, if people want to visit someone in a care home, would be to stay within your own household and not form a bubble with any other household.
- Change the designated visitor by discussing and arranging with the care home in advance.
- Best protect your loved ones by paying special attention to continuing with safe behaviours (remember FACTS) before and during your visit
- From 14th December, ask the care home about taking a test before your visit. They will tell you how to do this, either at the care home or at a nearby test centre. Testing is not compulsory but is strongly recommended and is in addition to existing safety measures such as wearing PPE
- Ask the care home about your loved one visiting for the day or overnight (if they are not resident in care homes for older adults), and how you and your household can mitigate the risks as far as possible in advance and on the visit.
Advice for care homes
- Support Christmas traditions and celebrations with Christmas trees, decorations etc., adopting a number of measures, which are outlined below, to mitigate any risks. Continue to maintain an up to date risk assessment
- Continue to support (or adopt) visiting in line with national guidance of 12th October including essential visits at all times
- Continue to generously support essential visits regardless of which Level of restrictions your care home is in
- Draw on support from oversight arrangements if you have any questions or concerns around how to implement a safe and balanced approach to visiting
- Plan with the resident’s wishes being paramount, and communicate in advance with families
- Continue visiting, with or without visitor testing, because it is additional to existing infection prevention and control measures, rather than a replacement.
- Support residents in care homes not for older adults to leave the care home for day and overnight visits, with testing and selfisolation on return, if they and families wish
- Screen for symptom awareness before visits, and test designated visitors (where consent is in place) in line with local arrangements, alongside IPC and PPE and sharing of visitor contact details for test and protect.