Very few topics have divided opinion quite like the debate over visitor restrictions in aged care homes.
The Prime Minister’s initial claims that aged care providers had been overstepping visitation guidelines were met with heavy backlash by industry figures and aged care workers alike.
In the two weeks following these comments, a number of providers made the bold decision to defy the Prime Ministers’ warnings and continue enforcing lockdowns to ensure the safety of their residents throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the concerns of families who are unable to visit their elderly relatives are completely understandable, many providers claim to be finding a common-sense approach to providing visitors and that reports of total visitor bans are isolated incidents.
One viewpoint that has been conspicuously absent throughout the visitor restriction debate has been that of the aged care residents themselves.
A group of five aged care residents and one family from Lifeview aged care homes in Victoria have decided to get in front of the camera to say how they are feeling and to tell Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, he should be listening to them.
Resident, Anne, was first to share her thoughts, addressing the Prime Minister directly and revealing that she was feeling well looked after and that she felt that keeping people out was the best move for the situation.
“I would like to speak directly to the Prime Minister, I think think that this place is doing the right thing by keeping visitors out,” said Anne.
“All we need is one person to come in with the germ, and then everyone gets it, and we do not want it here. We are getting well looked after here thank you very much.”
In one of the other videos, elderly aged care resident Jack allows his family members to speak directly to the camera through the use of an iPad that he is holding.
“Hey Scomo,” said Jack’s daughter, “we have our dad in aged care and we would prefer it if he was kept in there safe and sound.”
“If we can’t have visitors into our homes, then why should he have visitors in his? Staff have been fabulous with him and are keeping all of the residents safe – and we don’t want any risk given to him,” she said.
Under the Charter of Aged Care Rights, residents have the right to have control over and make choices about their care, personal, and social life, including where the choices involve personal risk.
The charter also expresses that residents’ decisions need to be listened to and understood.
Resident’s David and Michael were next up to have their say, revealing that they were doing very well in the facility as they took their turn in front of the camera while in the midst of a game of billiards.
“We think that we just need to err on the side of caution until this thing is knocked over or a vaccine comes forward,” said David.
With his 85th birthday fast approaching, resident Michael revealed that he fears that an outbreak would result in his death due to existing health issues.
He also fears for the wellbeing of his fellow residents.
“I’ve got emphysema and asthma,” said Michael.
“If it gets in here, I’m a goner. It’s a simple as that – and (it’s not just me) it’s all of us.”
A recent survey of Lifeview residents showed that more than 80% agreed with the visitor restrictions that were put in place to protect residents and staff.
Although it is refreshing to see the voices of residents enter this debate, it’s important to understand that not all residents can speak for themselves and many rely on their families for this very purpose.
Residents who are living with advanced dementia may be experiencing confusion and a range of other negative outcomes due to this massive change in routine.
Some families with loved ones living in aged care have even revealed feeling obligated to visit regularly just to ensure the wellbeing of their loved one.
Photo Credit – Lifeview Youtube