The health and safety of older Australians should be a priority this holiday season with families urged to keep in contact with those most in need - but to take appropriate precautions.
While restrictions have eased across Australia, providers and families living across the Northern Beaches and Penrith areas of Sydney must abide by the current visitation guidelines.
Until further notice all staff and visitors at residential facilities must wear a surgical mask.
Up to two people are permitted to visit loved ones in residential aged care facilities in Greater Sydney including the local government areas of Central Coast and Wollongong.
The rule also applies for Greater Sydney residents visiting regional aged care facilities.
Updated advice for Residential Aged Care facilities and Home Care Service providers can be found here.
Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services, Richard Colbeck, said aged care providers and families were required to follow the relevant visitation guidelines to ensure loved ones could maintain contact.
“We know where there is community transmission there is a serious risk of the virus spreading to aged care settings,” Minister Colbeck said.
“It is a difficult time for residents, families, providers and staff at facilities across this region but it’s vital we prioritise and protect our most vulnerable.
“Of course, we want families to maintain contact with their relatives in aged care, and a phone call or video call will mean a lot to those who can’t have visitors.
“Staff and management will continue to provide compassion and understanding, while also being a strong line of defence for those in their care from the coronavirus.”
Australian Government support for aged care providers in the Northern Beaches hotspot is already being provided, including asymptomatic testing, supplies of personal protective equipment as required, and workforce surge and support where needed.
A new three-tier escalation plan, backed by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC), outlines how providers can respond to the COVID-19 threat level in the local community and ramp the response up or down as needed.
The AHPPC guidelines outline visitation recommendations providers can put in place if they are in a defined hotspot with localised outbreaks of cases (Tier 2) and when there is an outbreak of COVID-19 in the community (Tier 3).
“Residents must be protected in the least restrictive manner and their health needs must be balanced with their personal wellbeing,” Minister Colbeck said.
Additionally, Minister Colbeck said the Industry Code for Visiting Residential Aged Care Homes during COVID-19, developed in conjunction with consumer peak bodies sets out a nationally consistent, principles-based approach to maintaining residents’ visitation and communication – the Government welcomes the latest version of the code.
In conjunction with the new visitation guidelines, it offers clarity for residents and families.
“It is an important time of the year for families to re-connect, particularly as we return to COVID-normal environments with the current exception of the Sydney hotspots,” Minister Colbeck said.
“The social distancing measures we have all adopted will protect our families.
“Don’t visit if you are unwell, practise good hand and cough hygiene, and follow the advice available from staff at the aged care facility.”
All aged care providers are urged to ensure their outbreak management plan is up to date and ready to be activated. They must also be alert to any staff or care recipients experiencing respiratory and flu like symptoms.
The Visitation Guidelines for Residential Aged Care can be found here.
The COVID-19 escalation tiers and aged care provider responses can be found here.
The Older Persons COVID Support Line can offer information and support to seniors who need assistance or are feeling worried and isolated. The line can be reached on free call 1800 171 866.
Mental health support is available to all Australians by calling Lifeline (13 11 14) or BeyondBlue (1800 512 348) and further resources are available on the Department of Health’s Head to Health website.