Care Home Covid Rules: Where we Are Now & What We Learnt

Government guidance on managing Covid concerns in care homes was withdrawn last month. This is great news in many ways, but has left many confused about what care home Covid rules they need to follow.

While there are no government-led care home Covid rules, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any rules governing visits. This is because individual care homes still have the responsibility of ensuring the safety of their residents. As such, they may have their own rules and these can vary from home to home.

However, there are some general principles which should govern the individual care home Covid rules that are in place. This helps you to determine what is fair, but also give you peace of mind that adequate safeguarding of your loved ones is taking place.

Care home visits are important

The overriding principle that should lie behind all care home Covid rules is that visits from loved ones to care home residents should be considered important. At Eastleigh Care Homes, we value the enormous contribution of visitors for our residents. They contribute to the wellbeing of residents, help them feel valued and cherished, and also add to the sense of community in our homes.

We also know that care home visits are important for loved ones too. Having a family member in a care home can actually help facilitate a good relationship, especially as the burden of care is no longer on the family. Loved ones enjoy visits and like to see their family member being well cared for.

However, the risk of Covid for the elderly is high and as such, steps should be taken by responsible care homes to mitigate the risk, as far as it is practical and reasonable to do so.

Managing risk

The individual care home Covid rules should now be about managing risk while maintaining the quality of life of the home’s residents. In addition to ensuring that residents are able to get booster vaccinations as provided, there are other common measures they are likely to put in place. These measures will include infection prevention measures, testing arrangements, risk assessments and what to do if there is an outbreak of Covid within the home.

General principles that should govern care home Covid rules include:

  • It is helpful if visitors notify the care home in advance of a visit. This enables the home to ensure your loved one is in a suitable place for the visit, and also ensures there aren’t lots of outsiders in the home at any one time. The visiting practices will vary and visitors should follow the guidance given by the home. Nonetheless, you and your loved one should be comfortable.
  • The length of visits shouldn’t automatically be restricted. However, remember that short and sweet is often best when visiting the elderly or those with dementia anyway.
  • The care home may ask that you take a lateral flow test on the day of the visit and provide evidence of this. There are additional testing arrangements that have been put in place for essential care givers. Essential care givers are very important to the care of a resident and so the rules for them are different, enabling them to visit even during the time of an outbreak (see below).
  • If there is an outbreak of Covid within the home, it is no longer necessary for visits to be suspended for all, although different care homes are taking different approaches to this. If there is an outbreak, you should be able to visit your loved one outdoors. If you’ve visited inside then adequate ventilation should be ensured. If the care home puts in additional rules due to an outbreak then you can expect these to be lifted 10 days after the onset of the most recent case.
  • Physical contact is very important for the wellbeing of residents. Touch and affection help people to feel loved and safe. It’s therefore important that touch is not forbidden. Nonetheless, you may be encouraged to practice good hygiene, including washing your hands, wearing a mask and using hand sanitiser.
  • It is likely that your loved one’s care home will strongly recommend that all visitors to the home have had Covid vaccinations and boosters in order to protect their residents.
  • Visitors will be encouraged to take responsibility for their own health when visiting a care home. You shouldn’t visit if you’ve been feeling unwell in any way, or believe you’ve been in close recent contact with Covid. If you have a positive Covid test, it is prudent to ensure a negative lateral flow test or at least 10 days have passed before visiting again.
  • Rules for residents at end of life should be considerate of the greater need for visits at that time.

Taking your loved one out for a trip

With the relaxing of Covid rules and the advent of nicer weather, you may want to take your loved one for a visit outside of the care home. This should be supported, wherever possible. Trips out can be stimulating and engaging and a highlight in a care home resident’s calendar.

However, steps should be taken to limit risks. Precautions and testing arrangements may be put in place. If you’ve been on a high-risk trip, or the loved one has been out of the care home for a hospital stay, they may be expected to isolate on their return to reduce risk to other care home residents.

Covid Care Home Rules for Essential care givers

Essential care givers are nominated individuals who are usually able to visit more often. They are often encouraged to follow the same rules for testing as care home staff. If you’re providing direct personal care to a loved one, you will usually be offered PPE, such as an apron and gloves.

During an outbreak, most normal visits will be suspended to keep everyone safe. The essential care giver should still be allowed to visit during this time, or, at the very least, in exceptional circumstances. It is important that the essential care giver is consistent.

The individual home

The most important thing is that you feel confident in the arrangements of your loved one’s home. They are designed to keep your loved one and their fellow residents safe with Covid concerns, while also facilitating visits. Make sure you understand the care home Covid rules that apply to your specific care home and ask questions if you are unsure.