Since March, ‘essential visitors’ to long-term care homes have included individuals performing essential support services or those visiting a very ill or palliative resident. Under this umbrella, ‘caregivers’ are essential visitors and important partners in care who provide direct care to residents — such as helping with feeding, mobility, hygiene, or cognitive stimulation. They can be family members or friends, privately hired caregivers, paid companions and/or translators.
Operators have been encouraged to facilitate visits by caregivers, however, implementation has been inconsistent. The updated policy provides clarity that caregivers are allowed to visit homes at any time, including during an outbreak, subject to direction from the local public health unit. This will support better implementation across homes.
The updated visitor policy outlines that:
- Each resident and/or their substitute decision maker may designate a maximum of two caregivers.
- Caregivers can visit, without time limits.
- If a home is not in outbreak, and the resident is not self-isolating or symptomatic, caregivers can visit together. If a home is in outbreak, or the resident is self-isolating or symptomatic, they must visit one at a time to limit risk of transmission and follow direction from the local public health unit.
“Bringing comfort and care, caregivers make a vital contribution to the overall well-being of long-term care residents,” said Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, Minister of Long-Term Care. “Today’s announcement will ensure that guidelines on their visits are applied consistently across homes so that all residents get the support they deserve.”
Direction on safety in long-term care homes will continue to be updated as Ontario’s experience with COVID-19 evolves. The government will continue to make every effort to support the safety and emotional wellbeing of residents and the staff who care for them.