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Visitation in Long-Term Care Facilities

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Residents of long-term care have been subject to strict visitation policies for months since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.  These policies have had a significant effect on the health and well-being of residents.  Find information and resources below on the latest federal guidance on visitation, things to look for as visitors begin to be permitted into facilities, voting resources, and how to advocate for long-term care residents.

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CMS Visitation Guidance

 The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released new guidance on March 10, 2021 around visitation for nursing homes.  It is effective immediately.  After a year of significant restrictions imposed because of COVID-19, the new guidance allows indoor and outdoor visits for all residents, except in limited circumstances.  Infection prevention protocols are still in place and must be followed by all visitors.  Visitation is allowed regardless of vaccination status. 

Nursing Home Visitation Guidance (QSO-20-39-NH)

CMS Fact Sheet (Spanish)

Consumer Voice's Summary, Key Takeaways, and Concerns

Webinar on revised guidance with a presentation by Evan Shulman, CMS Director, Division of Nursing Homes (3/12/2021)

How Vaccinations Affect Visitation

The new CMS guidance allows indoor and outdoor visits for all residents, except in limited circumstances. Visitation is allowed regardless of vaccination status of residents or visitors, though vaccination is encouraged.

Vaccinated residents can now have close contact with visitors, including hugs.

Limitations on visitation may occur:

  • for unvaccinated residents if the COVID-19 county positivity rate is greater than 10% and less than 70% of residents in the facility are fully vaccinated;
  • for residents with COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status, until they have met criteria to discontinue precautions; or
  • for residents in quarantine, regardless of vaccination status, until they have met criteria to be released from quarantine.

CDC Guidance on Quarantine

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated their guidance (3/29/21) regarding infection prevention and control to prevent COVID-19 spread in nursing homes. It includes important information about when nursing home residents are required to quarantine.  Whether a resident should be quarantined depends on factors such as vaccination status, exposure to someone with COVID-19, and length of time outside of the facility. Read the summary from Consumer Voice providing basic information about quarantine and indicating when quarantine is necessary.

Making the Case for Compassionate Care Visits

Compassionate care visits are special visits in which a family member or other visitor provides comfort, support, and/or assistance to a resident whose well-being is suffering or at risk, or who is dying.  Read our fact sheet for information on what the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) considers a compassionate care visit, what makes a compassionate care visit special and different from other visits, and when a resident can receive compassionate care visits, and further information on visitation.

What to Look for as You Start Visiting Again

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted residents of long-term care facilities and their families. In-person visitation restrictions imposed to reduce the spread of COVID-19 required residents and families to adapt quickly to other means of communication. As in-person visits resume, you will want to look for any changes in your loved one’s appearance or demeanor to get a better sense of the impact on him or her.  See our fact sheet.



  • Ask your loved one about their experience
  • Ask how they like living there and what types of activities they have been doing
  • Ask if staff wear face masks and ask when/if they wear a face mask
  • Ask if they are getting the help they need from staff
  • Ask if they have been tested for COVID-19 or if they have seen any residents or staff who appear to have symptoms
  • Observe your loved one's appearance and demeanor
  • Have they lost or gained weight? Have their hair and nails been cut and cleaned and teeth brushed? Does their skin look healthy and is it free of bruises or sores?
  • Has your loved one's energy level changed? Are they confused or talking slowly?
  • Has their been a change in their physical abilities like the ability to walk or get in and out of bed?
  • Observe what is happening in the building
  • Are face masks being worn in the building and is there access to hand sanitizer?
  • Do rooms appear clean and well-maintained?
  • Do any staff members or residents appear to be experiencing COVID-19 symptoms?
  • Are their sufficient number of staff in the building?

Resources to Help You Advocate for Yourself or Your Loved One

The resources below provide information for residents and family members about how they can advocate

Part of being a good advocate is taking care of yourself, read our fact sheets for tips on how family caregivers and residents can take care of themselves during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What to Do If You Are Denied Entry

What can you do if you are denied the ability to enter a facility and visit your loved one?

  • Contact your Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program.  The Long-Term Care Ombudsman program advocates for residents of nursing homes, assisted living facilities, board and care homes, and similar adult care homes. LTCOPs provide information about how to find a facility and what to do to get quality care and they are trained to resolve problems. Find contact information for a program near you.
  • Contact your state legislators and local representatives.  Decision-makers need to hear from you!  Call or email your local officials and share what you are experiencing.

Share Your Story: What are you seeing as you resume visits?

As many facilities across the country begin to allow visitation, many families will be seeing their loved ones in person for the first time in nearly six months. Consumer Voice would like to hear from you about your visits and about how your loved one is managing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fill out the reentry survey for families and friends with loved ones in long-term care facilities.

Residents of long-term care: Continue to share with us your experience of living in a long-term care facility during the COVID-19 pandemic. Fill out this form to share your story.

Connection Matters

Connections – to family, to friends, and to the community – are essential components of good health and quality of life for residents.  The months of restrictions on visitation in long-term care facilities and the inability of residents, families, and friends to be together during the coronavirus pandemic has emphasized the importance of connection, of relationships, and the impact they have on all of our well-being.  During this crisis, many creative ways of staying connected were shared that can be replicated and built upon in all communities.

See activity suggestions and resources for staying connected and engaged.