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Equal Visitation Overview

The federal government requires that all long-term care communities receiving medicaid or medicare funding ensure that residents are granted certain rights and protections, including the right to spend time with visitors. This includes:

  • The right of residents to see visitors at any time - 24 hours per day - as long as the visit does not interfere with the provision of care and privacy rights of other residents.
  • The right to have visitors of the resident’s choice - including same-sex spouses, same-sex domestic partners, other family, or friends.
  • The right to see anyone who gives the resident help with health, social, legal, or other services at any time.
  • The right to spend private time with visitors.

These rights, combined with a community’s resident non-discrimination policy including sexual orientation, gender identity or expression and HIV status, provides strong protections for LGBTQ older adults living in skilled nursing communities.

However, these guidelines only protect skilled nursing community residents and those living in communities receiving Medicaid or Medicare funding.  The LEI advocates for the same protections for all LGBTQ older adults living in long-term care, including assisted living and independent living.  When long-term care communities explicitly guarantee equal visitation to LGBTQ residents, they offer vital assurance to residents and clear guidance to employees about expectations.

To be considered an Equal Visitation Policy, your visitation policy must grant equal visitation in at least one of the following ways: noting explicitly that residents may designate the visitor(s) of their choice, prohibiting discrimination in visitation based on sexual orientation and gender identity, explicitly within the visitation policy including (or linking to or making direct reference to) an explicitly LGBTQ-inclusive definition of "family." Does your visitation policy grant equal visitation to LGBTQ residents and their visitors in at least one of the ways indicated above?

LGBTQ older people have a greater likelihood to age alone without the family they were born into. For many in the LGBTQ community, resident's may have a "family of choice" in replacement of or in addition to their family of origin (e.g mother, father, sibling). One's family of choice may be made up of friends, former partners, other LGBTQ community members. Including inclusive language and definitions in your community's visitation policy shows your welcomeness and intention to protect LGBTQ residents and LGBTQ visitors. 

For example:

Equal visitation policy at Gouverneur Skilled Nursing Facility (NY, NY), NYC Health + Hospitals

Is your Equal Visitation Policy communicated with residents and/or the public?

As with the resident non-discrimination policy, creating and broadly communicating an equal visitation policy is a crucial step in ensuring safe, inclusive spaces for LGBTQ residents. It sends an important message to residents and employees alike: LGBTQ people must receive equal visitation access and cannot be denied the visitor of their choices. 

There are a variety of ways in which communities can share their equal visitation policies, including: 

  • Posted or displayed in public and/or common gathering areas of the community
  • Posted on the community’s website
  • In materials routinely give to residents during move-in or registration
  • In printed materials/brochures that are provided to residents and their families at other times
  •  Provided in print materials available in community spaces

For example:

NYC Health + Hospitals' Gouverneur provides each resident with a copy of the community's policies.

Is your Equal Visitation Policy communicated to staff and volunteers?

Sharing your equal visitation policy with staff and volunteers is an important step toward ensuring that the people providing services in your community are aware of the expectations regarding visitation rights. Further, it provides a foundation for providing education and training to staff and volunteers. 

The following list includes a variety of ways in which communities can share their equal visitation policies with staff and volunteers:

  • Provided in materials for all new employees and volunteers during orientation
  • Reviewed in-person or online during employee and volunteer training
  • Posted on the community intranet site
  • Posted on signs/placards in employee work area(s)

For example:

Staff at Woodland Park receive a copy of the equal visitation policy document online, complete a knowledge check, and affirm their understanding of the policy.