Appearing on 3AW radio yesterday, Paul Sadler, CEO of Aged Care Services Australia (ACSA) spoke candidly with host Tony Jones about the dire need for rule changes regarding COVID-19 outbreaks in aged care
“We understand why the public health authorities – who are the ones who tell care providers what to do in the context of an outbreak – we understand why they say [lock residents down], but we don’t think that’s sustainable long-term for the mental health of older people,” said Mr Sadler.
Radio host Tony Jones then asked Mr Sadler if giving aged care residents and their families the ability to assess risk themselves and opt-out of isolation and back into integration is an option that should be considered.
“I’m talking to a number of CEOs of major aged care organisations who are saying exactly the same [thing] to me, and they don’t think this is tenable to keep locking people up.”
Mr Sadler continued, “Sometimes, families don’t have all the stories about all the information about what the person’s physical health condition might be. So I think it’s always got to be a discussion between the aged care providers, staff – particularly the nurses – and what the family and the resident want to do.”
Mr Sadler revealed to listeners that his mother is currently living in a Tasmanian nursing home that has recently gone into lockdown, and that they had been talking about the daunting realities of being confined to one room and unable to mix with other people.
Radio host Tony Jones then asked Mr Sadler if locking residents down was simply the ‘easy option’ for health officials?
“I think there’s some truth to that,” said Mr Sadler. “We can understand why aged care providers and public health authorities are really, really conscious of the need to protect older people from a dangerous disease.”
“We’re now calling for some clear guidelines that balance infection control risk, with the ability for older people to socialise with their families, and with other residents.”
Radio host Tony Jones echoed Mr Sadler’s call for change and ended the conversation with his own succinct, but sadly apt, assessment of the current situation for aged care residents.
“I suggest there’s no easy fix for it, but something’s got to be done because it’s just, it’s bordering on the cruel what is actually happening with these people at the moment.”