Residential Aged Care Visiting Rights
The outbreak of any virus in an aged care home can cause significant problems. COVID-19 is a particular health risk for older people. The Australian Government has applied new restrictions to protect them.
In recognition that some residential aged care providers have imposed excessive visitor restrictions and other lock-down practices to the detriment of the mental well-being of residents, the Prime Minister has asked peak bodies representing consumers and family and friend carers of the aged and aged care providers to develop a code of consistent and compassionate visiting rights based on the recommendations provided by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC), building on the initial advice by the Communicable Diseases Network Australia (CDNA).
The draft code can be found at here.
It is expected to be implemented on Monday, 11 May.
In the meantime, carers should be aware that the national government has advised that aged care facilities should implement 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;
- Visitors must have a current vaccination against influenza.
Visitors must not enter aged care facilities if:
- Those who have returned from overseas in the last 14 days.
- They have been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the last 14 days. (A contact is defined as anyone who has been in contact with a known case, including the 24 hours before the case became symptomatic.)
- They have fever or symptoms of acute respiratory infection (e.g. cough, sore throat, runny nose, shortness of breath) symptoms.
- They have not been vaccinated against influenza.
Visitors should also be encouraged to observe social distancing practices where possible, including maintaining a distance of 1.5 metres.
Children aged 16 years or less must be permitted to visit only by exception, as they are generally unable to comply with hygiene measures. Exemptions can be assessed on a case-by-case basis, for example, where the resident is in palliative care.
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.
What if I meet the safety requirements but I still can’t get access?
If you are having issues with gaining access to your loved one please contact the Older Persons Network (OPAN) on 1800 237 981. This service is available 7 days a week from 6am – 10pm.
Home Care Services
The Government has prepared a guide for Home Care Providers which identifies what they need to do to provide safe services to older people during the coronavirus period. This information is also useful for consumers and family and friend carers.
The Guide makes particular reference to contacting family and friends. This includes making contact with the consumer’s family members and friends to discuss alternative delivery models if required and Identify whether the consumer has family or friends who can provide assistance in the short-term if the delivery of services is interrupted (e.g. cooking meals for the consumer). Providers are also encouraged to identify whether the consumer has the support of family or friends to do online shopping for groceries, and/or delivery of medications.