Following the recent National Cabinet meeting, the PM stated that “it is not acceptable, fair or compassionate for any residential aged care facilities to ban visits from carers and families.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been a difficult time for visiting loved ones living in residential aged care.
Advice from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) for residential aged care facilities have encouraged to avoid and/or limit face to face visits.
Residential Aged Care Facilities are implementing the following measures for restricting visits and visitors to reduce the risk of transmission to residents, including:
Limiting visits to a short duration;
Limiting visits to a maximum of two visitors at one time per day. These may be immediate social supports (family members, close friends) or professional service or advocacy;
Visits should be conducted in a resident’s room, outdoors, or in a specific area designated by the RACF, rather than communal areas where the risk of transmission to residents is greater;
No large group visits or gatherings, including social activities or entertainment, should be permitted at this time;
No school groups of any size should be allowed to visit RACFs.
Visitors should also be encouraged to practise social distancing practices where possible, including maintaining a distance of 1.5 metres.
Measures such as phone or video calls must be accessible to all residents to enable more regular communication with family members. Family and friends should be encouraged to maintain contact with residents by phone and other social communication apps, as appropriate.
New residents to aged care
If you or a loved one is transitioning into aged care, it is important to understand their policy on self-quarantining at entry. Many facilities are asking new residents to remain in their room for fourteen days and or until they have tested negative to a COVID-19 test.
For example, couple Mary and John moved into an aged care home on 9 April 2020. They were asked to remain in their rooms for fourteen days. The rooms were joined, which allowed Mary and John to move freely between the two suites. Over the 14 days, they received meals and care within the confines of their room. Leading to day 14, they were asked to undertake a COVID-19 test. On day 14, both tested negative for COVID-19. In this case, Mary and John have settled in well and are now enjoying the full services available at the aged care home.
In another example, we had family who chose to wait until the mandated 14-day self-quarantine is lifted. Their father, Pete, is living with a diagnosis of dementia, and they were concerned he could not cope with a change of environment plus the limitation of movement. He is a very social person and the family felt his mental health would be impacted if he was to stay alone in his room with limited visitation over the 14-day period. Pete's home care services were increased and the family have managed to create a supportive routine to keep Pete safe and connected in his own home.
It is relevant to refer back to state and territories that have issued their own advice on the closure of facilities: