Can families stay overnight in nursing homes?

Visitors allowed in nursing home overnight

When you have a family member go to a nursing home after an acute care stay at the hospital, it can be traumatic to the family as well as the patient. We are all used to staying in our homes with the ones we love.

What happens when we go to a nursing home? Are we allowed to stay in the room overnight with our loved ones? The answer is, it depends.

Most nursing homes would prefer that you go home after visiting hours. Some nursing homes make an exception to this rule and allow a minimal amount of family members to stay overnight.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, most people were allowed to have overnight guests. However, medicare has enacted new rules that may prevent overnight stays in nursing homes.

Most of this article discusses pre Covid-19 rules. Currently, overnight stays are prohibited in nursing homes. As things improve, nursing homes will most likely return to the original rules and guidelines.

Most overnight exceptions are due to the patient being in hospice status and actively dying. There are compassionate care visits that allow the family to visit when the resident is declining in health.

Overnight stays happen more frequently when the patient has their own room.

It is tough to allow a family member to spend the night when there is a roommate that must sleep in the same room. Therefore, visitors need to make sure they respect the rights of the other patients.

Patients are permitted to have visitors during reasonable times without having the facility give you a hard time.

One thing many patients do not realize is facilities must always allow access to the patient. However, there may be times when the nursing home may restrict access to specific guests.

Limiting access to guests doesn’t mean the patient cannot have visits overnight just they may have increased rules.

Some examples include:

  • Disruptive guest
  • Alcohol present or illicit drugs
  • Frequent interruptions of nursing staff by guests
  • Eating food from the facility without permission
  • Upsetting other patients
  • Multiple visitors staying overnight on the same night

Our advice isn’t intended to provide legal advice or to substitute for a consultation with an attorney. However, we do feel that patients need guidance in their stay at home.

Posted Visitor hours

Some facilities post visitor hours. Most facilities do not like to have visitors spend the nights with the patients. They also have some guidelines for when patients’ visitors are allowed to stay.

Most facilities won’t have a problem with one family member staying overnight on the first night of the resident’s arrival.

Even though nursing homes may have posted rules regarding visitors, they usually cannot place limitations on a resident’s right to have visitors.

The general rule is that unless the visitor is a harm to the resident or others, they cannot be denied. Many people assume that the facility rules are the final rule.

If a facility accepts Medicare, then they cannot place restrictions on visitors, even if they post visitor hours (within reason).

Generally, residents of skilled nursing facilities have the right to receive visitors and family members have the right to visit with patients at all times.

A facility’s visitation hours policy is not binding to all patients. The visiting hour’s restriction on non-family members does not usually apply if the resident is critically ill. Most facilities will not give a visitor a difficult time if the patient is actively dying.

Even though the patient may be allowed to have overnight guests, you should still avoid visiting late at night or staying overnight. By following visitor hours, you allow other patients to sleep and heal.

People should respect visitor hours when possible to respect other patients. This may be the temporary or permanent home of the patient, but they still have other patients who need quiet and personal space.

Doctor not allowing visitors

There are times when a patient’s doctor will document the reasons why the patient should not be allowed a visitor. This usually is due to the potential for harm to the resident. There are also rare occasions when the visitor may present a risk of injury to other residents and staff.

A doctor’s decision still doesn’t override the resident or court-appointed conservator. Literature states that a doctor’s opinion regarding the resident’s capacity is not legally binding. The facility would still have to go to court using the doctor’s assessment to change the ability to make decisions.


Even though facilities may have visiting hours, If they are a nursing home that accepts medicare funding, they must allow the residents 24/7 access to visitors when in agreement.

However, even though you may be allowed to have visitors at 3 am, you should respect the other residents. The other patients are trying to get healthy and will have a harder time if there is noise keeping them up at night.


I am a Family Nurse Practitioner working in the post acute setting which includes Nursing homes, Assisted living facilities. I have worked for two other companies that provided APRNs to the nursing homes and now run a company providing APRNs in this setting. I have experience with clinical, operations, and general nursing home topics. This blog is a hobby that I use to relax after a long day working in the post acute world.

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