Essential caregiver and visitor presence

St. Joseph’s views patients, residents and essential caregivers as full partners in care and recognizes the integral role essential caregivers have in the well-being and quality of life of our patients/residents. 

Over the course of the pandemic – aligned with government directives and infection control practices – St. Joseph’s has closely monitored the number of individuals permitted within our facilities to help ensure the safety of those who come to us for care, as well as for our staff and physicians. 

As community transmission and hospitalizations continue to decrease across the province, St. Joseph’s has evolved visitor and essential caregiver presence. 

Designated essential caregivers and general visitors are welcome at St. Joseph’s with some limits based on the care area. The number of essential caregivers or visitors permitted per patient/resident in each area of care is based on the patient population, space and capacity limits, types of services being offered and clinical activity levels.

Visitors and essential caregivers to St. Joseph's will no longer be required to show proof of vaccination- with the exception of those visiting residents of the Veterans Care Program. 

Please see the 'Essential Caregiver and Visitor Restrictions' chart, as well as the 'Essential Caregiver and Visitor Requirements' section below for full details. 

Who is an essential caregiver?

An essential caregiver is a person identified and designated by the patient/resident – a family member, friend, neighbour – who provides important personal, social, psychological and/or physical support, assistance and care. An essential caregiver does not have to be living with the person they are supporting or biologically related to the patient/resident. An essential caregiver must be at least 18 years of age.

A patient who has mobility, cognitive or translation needs can identify/designate an essential caregiver. Based on space restrictions and the need for physical distancing, essential caregivers may be asked to wait outside the exam room during appointments.

The maximum number of essential caregivers that can be registered for each patient/resident varies by care area. Ask the care team for details.

General Visiting

The number of visitors and location for visiting vary depending on the program area and all visits (indoor and outdoor) must be pre-arranged with the care team and follow infection prevention and control protocols and be in accordance with provincial directives. Visits to Long Term Care do not need to be pre-arranged.

Proof of vaccination and testing requirements for essential caregivers and visitors to Mount Hope and Veterans Care

*Patients/residents are not required to provide proof of vaccination.

All essential caregivers and visitors to residents of Veterans Care must show government issued photo identification and proof of full COVID-19 vaccination before entering any St. Joseph’s site with some exceptions:

  1. Essential caregivers and visitors to  Veterans Care who cannot provide proof of vaccination but have been deemed necessary for enabling care, for specific quality of life or safety concerns, or for compassionate circumstances, may enter St. Joseph’s but must follow all infection control protocols, including passing screening, wearing a hospital provided mask at all times, as well as the following additional safety precautions while on site: remaining in the patient/resident room and staying six feet away from all others when travelling throughout the facility. (See chart below for details)
  2. Essential caregivers and visitors to Veterans Care who have a valid medical exemption will be required to provide acceptable proof and required to follow all infection control protocols, including passing screening, wearing a hospital provided mask at all times, as well as the following additional safety precautions while on site: remaining in the patient/resident room and staying six feet away from all others when travelling throughout the facility.

Testing requirements

All general visitors regardless of vaccination status, are required to wait while the antigen test processes and yield a negative result prior to gaining entry to the home.  

Designated essential caregivers and general visitors who are not vaccinated or have not provided proof of vaccination will be required to: 

  • Undertake daily rapid testing
  • Wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and restrict visits to resident rooms or outdoors.
  • If an unvaccinated essential caregiver or general visitor wish to visit the outdoor courtyard masking would be required as this area is accessed by other residents and families frequently.
  • If a general visitor is entering the home to visit with a resident who is very ill or is palliative, they will not be subject to testing in the event of an emergency. If not an emergency, palliative visitors will be required to participate in Rapid Antigen Testing to reduce the risk to the Home.

Clinical exemptions chart (effective Dec 30, 2021)

The chart below outlines the clinical exemptions for essential caregivers who have not submitted proof of vaccination. (*Patients/residents are not required to show proof of vaccination.)

Reason for essential caregiver/visitor presence

Examples of clinical exceptions that would permit support by essential caregivers and visitors who have not submitted proof of vaccination


•    Mental Health Crisis – patients who are experiencing a mental health crisis that the care team believes could be improved by having an essential care giver present

•    Cognitive or mental health impairment – patients with dementia, delirium, schizophrenia, dual diagnosis or cognitive decline and who require an essential caregiver to assist with wayfinding, retaining information and following instructions

Enabling care

•    Critical conversations 
•    Training to enable discharge 
•    Patients with development or intellectual disability who require support 
•    Interpretation/Translation support 

Compassionate Grounds

•    Palliative care and/or actively dying 
•    Life altering conversations 

Quality of life and well-being

•    Supporting the maintenance of significant relationships 
•    Avoiding escalation of behavioural issues
•    Significant spiritual distress

Visiting hours

Changes to regular visiting hours may be necessary depending on the patient/resident condition. Essential caregivers and visitors should connect with the area of care before visiting if they have questions. Please note quiet hours are from 10 pm to 7 am daily, to help promote a restful environment for our patients/residents’ well-being. See the Essential Caregiver Presence Guidelines below for further details on the number of essential caregivers, frequency and duration of visits permitted.

Essential Caregiver and Visitor Requirements

To protect everyone in our buildings from COVID-19, all essential caregivers and visitors must:

  • Follow the permitted number of visitors/visit frequency as outlined in the chart below;
  • Stay home if feeling unwell, have symptoms of COVID-19, or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19;
  • Comply with the federal travel requirements for returning to Canada.
  • Pass all screening criteria for signs and symptoms of illness upon entry at designated entrances; if they fail screening, they can not enter or visit at that time. This applies to both indoor and outdoor visits.
  • Follow infection control measures including continuously wearing the provided personal protective equipment (PPE), performing hand hygiene as directed and practicing safe physical distancing from others;
  • Keep their mask on at all times and must not eat or drink in the presence of others while in the building, regardless of vaccination status
  • Not visit anyone other than the intended patient/resident and access designated visiting/care presence area(s) only;
  • Adhere to any time restrictions as required;
  • Inform the patient’s/resident’s care team immediately if symptoms develop either during or following a visit.

Essential caregivers and visitors may be asked to wear eye protection when inside our facilities, which will be provided. 

Essential Caregiver and Visitor Restrictions

*The number of essential caregivers/visitors permitted per patient/resident is based on the area of care, the patient population, space and capacity limits, types of services being offered and clinical activity levels.

*Essential caregiver/visitor presence may be revoked as a result of ignoring or defying the requirements or policy guidelines, as it is essential that St. Joseph's protects the safety and health of all patients, residents, staff and essential caregivers.

Essential Caregiver and Visitor Restrictions Effective Feb 21, 2022

All essential caregiver and general visitor visits are determined in partnership with patients, residents and program areas to accommodate length and location of visits in keeping with infection prevention and control protocols. Virtual visits and telephone options can be arranged in consultation with the care team.


Patient Population

Essential Caregiver and Visitor Restrictions

Inpatient stay 

(excluding palliative care and short stay surgery) 



Visits (at the bedside or in a designated area):
• Up to three visitors (can be a combination of essential caregivers and general visitors). When the number of visitors impacts the ability to maintain physical distancing the team may partner with essential caregivers and visitors to schedule/adjust visit times. In ward rooms, more than one patient at a time may have one essential caregiver or visitor at the discretion of the care team and if physical distancing is possible.

• Essential caregivers/visitors do not have to pre-arrange each visit, but will be required to add their names to the visitors list at the screening entry points.

Patients in isolation:
• Daily, at the bedside, one essential caregiver can visit up to two hours with required personal protective equipment


  • Outpatient appointment/procedure

One essential caregiver for duration of appointment

Urgent Care Centre (UCC) patients

One essential caregiver for duration of UCC visit

Short stay surgery (Estimated length of stay less than three days)

Two essential caregivers in consultation with the care team

Palliative Care

Limit of 15 essential caregivers; maximum of three caregivers at a time daily, no limit on daily duration or frequency; additional essential caregivers will be at discretion of the Director of delegate.

Actively dying

Limit of 10 essential caregivers; no limit on frequency/duration; additional caregivers will be at the discretion of the Director/delegate.

*Long Term Care

Learn more about Mount Hope Centre for Long Term Care's visitor policy.

*Veterans Care Program

Four visitors (including caregivers) may visit a resident at one time. 


Residents may designate a maximum of four caregivers. 


All general visitors to Veterans Care must have had at least two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.


All visitors and caregivers including children age 1 and above, must complete COVID-19 rapid antigen testing. Those who have been COVID-19 positive in the past 90 days do not need to complete testing. 


All essential caregivers, regardless of their vaccination status must keep their mask on at all times and cannot eat or drink in the presence of residents and others while in the home.


Residents of the Veterans Care Program may have pre-arranged outdoor visits, with no limit on the number of visitors.

*As per Ministry of LTC Directive (Dec. 7, 2020) as well as their COVID-19 Visiting Policy (supplement document: "COVID-19: Visiting Long Term Care Homes"-July 7, 2021). This policy is intended to supplement Directive #3 and the Minister's Directive, as well as to support homes in implementing the requirements in Directive #3 to safely receive visitors while protecting residents, staff and visitors from COVID-19.