Sep 28, 2021

“Not tolerable”: Aged care visitors remain locked out – even as states move to reopen

Aged care resident FaceTime

Ian Yates, CEO Council on the Ageing (COTA), told Steve Price of Australia Today that more than 90% of aged care staff and residents are double vaccinated, and even when families are also fully vaccinated, they are still banned from visiting.

“We find that not tolerable,” Yates shared.

The ‘partners in care’ model, which allowed care families who provide essential care to continue visiting loved ones in aged care, has even been “backsliding” during the current outbreaks, Yates said.

The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, in its report on aged care’s response to the pandemic, noted visits are essential to the physical, mental and emotional health of residents. 

The effects of ending visits for residents living with dementia are said to be “irreversible”.

Residents are “giving up,” Yates told Price. 

Personal contact with loved ones is one of the main things they have to look forward to.

While lockdowns are difficult for all, when a person in the very last stages of life is banned from seeing loved ones “it takes on another dimension”, Yates said.

Providers are taking on a range of responses to visiting, and not all are complying with COTA’s voluntary code for visitation, even when a person is in the final days of life.

“The number of visitors, length, frequency and nature of the visits should reflect what is needed for the person to die with dignity and comfort,” the code says.

“We are seeing [the states] committing to some kind of roadmap out of this, and we would make the point [that] this has to include everybody,” said Yates.

Not-for-profit aged care peak body, Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA) is calling on the federal government to release its own roadmap for resuming aged care visits in NSW and Victoria.

“ACSA is calling for more urgency from government in setting the course for returning visitors to all aged care facilities,” said Aged & Community Services Australia CEO, Paul Sadler.

The federal government must provide advice on how providers can balance visits with safety for residents, staff and visitors.

The federal government is responsible for establishing the guidelines aged care providers must follow in terms allowing visitors into aged care homes

“They must work closely with state governments who issue the public health orders that apply during outbreaks,” Sadler said.

“Many aged care facilities and staff members have been innovative in the ways they’re keeping people connected, now we need a government plan that provides certainty and a roadmap for opening up visitation,” he said.

ACSA wants the federal government to ensure there are processes in place to support aged care homes to achieve 100% staff vaccination rates.

Both Sadler and Yates said Rapid Antigen Testing (RAT) must be a component of aged care homes opening up safely to visitors.During NSW’s delta outbreak, 85 aged care homes have experienced an outbreak, infecting 346 residents and 179 staff, and leading to 31 resident deaths, The Guardian has reported.

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  1. What about the relatives sneaking into facilities trying all sorts of tactics (such as lying to staff, getting residents to open doors) or taking residents out without advising the staff? It’s not only the facilities that have to take responsibility here. There are relatives & residents out there willing to put the health & safety of other residents at risk for their own selfish needs.

  2. I agree that something needs to be seriously done interms of lockďowns in aged care facilities. Yesterday 4 cases were announced in south-east Queensland and we were put into immediate lockdown with no indication of when it will be lifted. We are the first to be put in lockdown even when the rest of the community are not and we are the last to be released. As my husband and I are in aged care residents because of our disabilities not because of age we find lockdowns particularly horrendous. It completely disrupts our life. The majority of residents in aged care facities are fully vaccinated. We have been fully vaccinated since April. When are our human rights going to be considered.

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