Visitation guidelines for aged care will be adjusted to better protect senior Australians and those who care for them as the nation returns to COVID-normal.
In a move that is likely to bring relief to aged care residents, families and staff, a new three-tier escalation plan, backed by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC), will outline how providers can respond to the COVID-19 threat level in the local community and ramp the response up or down as needed.
Where there is no community transmission or locally acquired cases (Tier 1) fewer restrictions on visitors, excursions, small gatherings and outdoor exercise are advised.
Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians, Senator Richard Colbeck, said the restrictions which remained were common sense measures.
“In all areas, even in those places where there isn’t any local transmission, the AHPPC recommends restricting people who have just returned from overseas or have been in contact with a confirmed case, people who are sick, those who require isolation or quarantine and people who haven’t had the flu jab,” Minister Colbeck said.
“Visitors will also need to maintain personal hygiene, and social distance. By taking these basic precautions, we keep senior Australians in aged care physically safe while they spend time with their family, friends and loved ones, or receive care from doctors or allied health workers.”
The AHPPC guidelines also outline visitation recommendations aged care 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).
“The Australian Government agrees wholeheartedly with the AHPPC that residents must be protected in the least restrictive manner and their health needs must be balanced with their personal wellbeing and human rights,” Minister Colbeck said.
The Australian Government has also finalised a three-tier guidance on actions aged care providers should take in response to a situation of escalating or de-escalating COVID-19 threat level in the local community.
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, he said.
“The pandemic has illustrated to us more than ever, how important it is to stay connected,” Minister Colbeck said. “Aged care residents, particularly those suffering from dementia, rely on face-to-face interaction with loved ones.
As has been demonstrated just this week with the outbreak in South Australia, there are State provisions via health orders which can also impact visitation.
While these orders clearly restrict visits to residential aged care facilities, life inside aged care centres will remain as normal as possible for residents.
“These new guidelines will ensure connection for those who need it most,” Minister Colbeck said.
The Visitation Guidelines for Residential Aged Care can be found here.
The Industry Code for Visiting Residential Aged Care Homes during COVID-19 can be found here.
The COVID-19 escalation tiers and aged care provider responses can be found here.