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Long-Term Care ConsumersFamily MembersAdvocatesCOVID-19

Visitation in Long-Term Care Facilities

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.

CMS Visitation Guidance

After six months of strict visitation restrictions in nursing homes, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released a memo significantly easing those restrictions.

The new guidance, which is effective immediately, permits outdoor visitation, indoor visitation, and compassionate care visits and lays out a framework for those visits.   CMS notes that this guidance replaces all previous guidance.   You can go here to see what your state's policy is on visitation. 

Read Consumer Voice's summary of the guidance.

Watch the webinar from Friday, October 2, 2020 on the CMS guidance on visitation, what it allows and requires, the shortfalls of the guidance, and advocacy strategies.

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.


  • 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?

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.

Voting Resources

Individuals receiving long-term services and supports retain their voting rights, no matter where they live or what type of care they receive.

The ability to vote in the upcoming election presents significant difficulties for residents of long-term care facilities.  In prior years, many facilities served as polling places, making it easier for residents to vote. Additionally, residents were able to leave facilities and travel to their polling place or rely on loved ones to bring them mail-in ballots.  This year, because of the serious risk that COVID-19 poses to residents of long-term care facilities, polling stations have been moved, facilities have been locked down, and residents may not be able to rely on their loved ones to help them vote. 

Visit our Voting Rights page for information and resources on how to register to vote, obtain a ballot, and get help voting.

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.

Advocacy Resources

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.

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