Long-Term Care, Retirement Homes, and Congregate Living Centers: Visits and Absences

The Ontario government has announced the gradual resumption of visits to long-term care homes, retirement homes, and other residential care settings. Family, friends, caregivers and support workers will be allowed access to long-term care homes, retirement homes and other residential care settings, indoors and/or outdoors. For current visitation requirements, please refer directly to the Ministry of Long-Term Care, the Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility, and the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services.

NOTE: For a home to be able to accept visitors, they must have an established process for communicating visitor protocols and associated safety procedures; and maintain the highest infection prevention and control standards. During an outbreak, or suspected case of COVID-19, public health will provide direction on visitation.

Requirements for Visits and Absences

Below are the requirements for the different types of settings and more information on safely visiting your loved ones:

Long-Term Care Homes
Retirement Homes
Congregate Living Centers

Interested visitors should also contact the home to learn about any specific requirements and/or to schedule their visit. 

Requirements for Visits to Long-Term Care Homes

Effective September 9, 2020, the home’s visitor policy should include visitors regularly reading the home’s visitor policy, and undergoing PPE training. Essential visitors may include up to 2 caregivers permitted to provide care to residents (e.g. supporting feeding, personal hygiene).

Up to 2 general visitors at a time may be allowed to visit residents of long-term care homes.

Homes must ensure a safe environment, including managing visitations. During an outbreak, or suspected case of COVID-19, or changing local epidemiology, public health will provide direction on visitation.

For every visit, visitors must:

  • Pass an active screening every time they are on the premises and attest that they are not experiencing any of the typical and atypical symptoms of COVID-19. Visitors will not be allowed to visit if they do not pass the screening.
  • For indoor visits, verbally attest to home staff that they have tested negative for COVID-19 within the last 2 weeks and subsequently not tested positive. Visitors are responsible for getting tested. Visit a COVID-19 Assessment Centre to be tested. Attestation of testing is not required for outdoor visits.
  • Follow the facility’s infection prevention and control (IPAC) protocols, including proper use of face coverings or surgical/procedural masks.
    • For outdoor visits, visitors must wear a mask (face covering). Visitors are responsible for supplying their own mask for outdoor visits.
    • For indoor visits, a surgical/procedure mask must be worn at all times.  
    • A surgical/procedure mask will be provided by the home to essential visitors and indoor visitors.
    • Refusal to follow these rules will be the basis for ending a visit or discontinuing visits for the non-compliant visitor.
  • Maintain physical distancing at all times and practise good hand hygiene.
  • General visitors must stay in the designated visitor area (indoor/outdoor area or suite) according to the home’s visitation policy.

Requirements for Absences From Long-Term Care Homes

As of August 28, 2020, long-term care home residents who wish to go outside of the home (e.g. absences for personal reasons, medical appointments, etc.) are permitted to do so if the following requirements are met:

  • The long-term care home must NOT be currently in a COVID-19 outbreak.
  • The resident must pass active screening every time they re-enter the home. If a resident does not pass screening, the home will follow existing isolation policies.
  • The resident wears a medical mask while outside the home and respects physical distancing. The home supplies medical masks for absences.
  • A resident returning from a same day absence must, upon return to the home, follow 14 days of enhanced precautions.
  • A resident returning from an overnight absence must, upon return to the home, follow 14 days of self-isolation.

Requirements for Visits to Retirement Homes

Note: Retirement homes co-located with a long-term care home must adopt the policies of that long-term care home (whichever is more restrictive).

Effective September 15, 2020, the home’s visitor policy should include visitors regularly reading the home’s visitor policy, and undergoing PPE training. Essential visitors may include up to 2 caregivers permitted to provide care (e.g. supporting feeding, personal hygiene) to residents. Up to 2 general visitors at a time may be allowed to visit residents of a retirement home.

Homes must ensure a safe environment, including managing visitation. During an outbreak, or suspected case of COVID-19, public health will provide direction on visitation.

For every visit, visitors must:

  • Pass an active screening every time they are on the premises and attest that they are not experiencing any of the typical and atypical symptoms of COVID-19. Visitors will not be allowed to visit if they do not pass the screening.
  • Visit with only the resident who was intended.
  • Follow the facility’s infection prevention and control (IPAC) protocols, including proper use of face coverings or surgical/procedural masks at all times.
    • For outdoor visits, visitors must wear a mask (face covering).  
    • For indoor visits, a surgical/procedure mask must be worn at all times.  
    • Visitors are responsible for supplying their own mask. If the visitor does not bring their own mask, they cannot visit.
  • General visitors stay in the designated visitor area (indoor/outdoor area or suite) with the resident that they are visiting.
  • Maintain physical distancing at all times and practise good hand hygiene.

Refusal to follow these rules will be the basis for no longer allowing visits.

Requirements for Absences From Retirement Homes

Retirement home residents who wish to go outside of the home (e.g. absences with friends or family, shopping, medical appointments, etc.) are permitted to do so if the following requirements are met:

  • The retirement home must NOT be currently in a COVID-19 outbreak.
  • The resident must pass active screening every time they re-enter the home. If a resident does not pass screening, the home will follow existing isolation policies.
  • The resident wears a mask (face covering) while outside the home and respects physical distancing. The resident is responsible for supplying a mask while they are on absences. The home may, at its discretion, opt to supply masks for absences.
  • Education on all required protocols for short absences will be provided by the home.
  • A resident returning from an absence that includes an overnight stay must, upon return to the home, follow 14 days of enhanced precautions, including:
    • Upon return, pass active screening.
    • Do not receive indoor visitors during the 14 days.
    • Monitor for symptoms.
    • Avoid using common areas; however, if a common area cannot be avoided, the resident must use a mask.
    • Limit contact with other residents.
    • Do not participate in group activities.
    • Wash their hands often (soap and water, or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer).
    • Adhere to respiratory etiquette.
    • Follow appropriate physical distancing guidelines.
  • Residents who are following the 14-day period of enhanced precautions may leave the home for non-overnight absences (e.g. to buy groceries or other essentials). Doing so will NOT reset the 14-day time period. However, an overnight stay during the 14-day period will reset the 14-day time period.

Requirements for Visits to Congregate Living Centers

Effective September 9, 2020, essential visitors, designated visitors, and family and friends can visit residents of congregate (group) living centres outdoors and/or indoors, dependent upon physical space and capacity to maintain appropriate physical distancing. In the event of an outbreak, all non-essential visits must end.

For every visit, visitors must:

  • Pass an active screening every time they are on the premises. Visitors will not be allowed to visit if they do not pass the screening.
  • Follow the facility’s infection prevention and control protocols, including respiratory etiquette, proper use of face coverings or surgical/procedural masks at all times. 
    • Visitors must wear a mask (face covering) at all times.  
    • Non-essential visitors are responsible for supplying their own mask.
  • Non-essential visitors must stay in the designated visitor area (indoor/outdoor area or suite) with the resident that they are visiting.
  • Non-essential visitors must maintain physical distancing at all times. In situations where physical distancing is not possible, both the resident and the visitor must mask and practise good hand hygiene.

Requirements for Absences From Congregate Living Centers

Effective August 28, 2020, congregate living residents who wish to go outside of the home (e.g. absences with friends or family, shopping, medical appointments, etc.) are permitted to do so if the following requirements are met. Overnight absences should be permitted if essential to residents’ health, wellness and safety, and legal rights. During an outbreak, or suspected case of COVID-19, public health will provide direction on absences.

  • The resident must pass active screening every time they re-enter the home. If a resident does not pass screening, the home will follow existing isolation policies.
  • The resident wears a mask (face covering) while outside the home, respects physical distancing, and maintains hand hygiene. The resident is responsible for supplying a mask while they are on absences. The home may, at its discretion, opt to supply masks for absences.
  • Education on all required protocols for short absences will be provided by the home.
  • A resident returning from an absence that includes an overnight stay must, upon return to the home, follow 14 days of enhanced precautions, including: 
    • Upon return, pass active screening.
    • Do not receive indoor visitors during the 14 days.
    • Monitor for symptoms.
    • Avoid using common areas; however, if a common area cannot be avoided, the resident must use a mask.
    • Limit contact with other residents.
    • Only participate in group activities if physical distancing is maintained and using a mask (face covering)
    • Wash their hands often (soap and water, or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer).
    • Adhere to respiratory etiquette.
    • Follow appropriate physical distancing guidelines.
  • Residents who are following the 14-day period of enhanced precautions may leave the home for non-overnight absences (e.g. to buy groceries or other essentials). Doing so will NOT reset the 14-day time period. However, an overnight stay during the 14-day period will reset the 14-day time period.

Additional Information

Eastern Ontatio Health Unit / Bureau de santé de l'Ontario