Family Presence Policy

As part of our Patient and Family Centred Care Philosophy, Horizon Health Network (Horizon) recognizes that family and friends are integral to patients’ healing process.

Family Presence is balanced with patient, family and staff safety while protecting the confidentiality and privacy of all patients. This program is intended to be flexible in order to respond to the diverse and individual needs and preferences of each patient. For further information about Horizon’s family presence approach, please see our Designated Support Person (DSP) Program.

  • Family/friends who support patients will be defined as Designated Support Persons (DSPs). This term emphasizes that they are respected as an essential member of the healthcare team and are “more than a social visitor”. DSPs are active partners in care and can provide physical, psychological, and emotional support. This care can include decision making support, care coordination and continuity of care.
  • Horizon also recognizes social visitors have an important social role but do not participate as DSPs who are active partners in care.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • DSPs provide support, comfort, and important information during a hospital stay or ambulatory visit. This is determined in collaboration with the patient, healthcare provider and the DSP. DSPs are not limited to social visitation hours. DSPs are welcomed according to patient preferences and in coordination with the patient care team.
  • Horizon welcomes all social visitors regardless of age to visit during social visitation hours.
  • Social visitors under 12 years of age must be supervised at all times by an adult who is not the patient or a member of the healthcare team.
  • All visitors, including children over the age of two (2) must clean their hands, physically distance themselves from others, and wear a medical-grade face mask when required by policy.
  • For ambulatory visits, the presence of a DSP is encouraged according to patient preference as space and safety considerations allow.
  • The overall number of DSPs permitted and number of DSPs who can be present at one time varies depending on the patient’s condition and the COVID-19 activity levels within the hospital and community. Please see Horizon’s current DSP and visitor guidelines for the number of allowable DSPs and social visitors. There may be interruptions to Family Presence to protect the privacy rights of other patients or to maintain safety, security or clinical requirements.

Noise and Disruptive Behaviour:

  • Visitors and DSPs must abide by safety procedures including infection prevention and control measures at all times.
  • Visitors and DSPs will be mindful and sensitive to the needs of other patients, families, and staff members by keeping noise and disruption to a minimum.
  • Disruptive behavior or unsafe practices are not tolerated. This includes but is not limited to: alcohol or illicit drug use; foul language; aggressive or disrespectful behaviour to staff members, patients or other family members; etc.
  • If behaviour becomes disruptive to any patient, family, staff, or other visitor, or interferes with the general comfort, care, care planning, or decision making of any patient, the person causing the disruption will be asked to leave the facility by a member of the care team or Security Services.


  • During the daytime, visitors and DSPs enter our facility through the main entrance. During the overnight hours, DSP entrance is made through a mutually agreed upon location.
  • To ensure the health and safety of all patients, visitors, and staff, all those visiting must clean their hands with the provided an alcohol-based hand rub before entering and exiting our facilities, the patient care unit and patient room, and wear a medical-grade face mask when required by policy. All DSPs and visitors are also requested to refrain from using scented products. There should be no eating or drinking in patient rooms.
  • Personal pet visitation is pre-arranged with the unit manager or member of the patient care team as per the Pet Visitation policies.
  • Visits may be interrupted by healthcare practitioners to provide patient care.
  • The bedside presence of children is supported based on the preference of the patient and the care team. An adult (other than the patient or a staff member) must supervise children under the age of 12 at all times.
  • The stay of DSPs may be interrupted if circumstances change with the patient or with the health status of other patients on the unit (i.e. flu season, infection prevention and control precautions, etc.)
  • If a visitor or DSP is unwell, we ask them to stay home. Every effort is made to keep the DSP informed and involved with the plan of care for the patient.


In exceptional circumstances, DSPs may be able to stay overnight with a patient. Please consult with the health care team if this appears to be a patient need.