Access to residential aged care facilities (RACF) by visitors is essential to reduce the impacts of social isolation on elderly people. Visitors provide aged care residents with a range of benefits including providing emotional support and supporting physical activity.
Older people in residential care should be allowed to take advantage of reduced restrictions and participate in activities outside the RACF such as outdoor exercise and visitation with friends and family.
AHPPC agreed all jurisdictions will revise their public health orders to remove restrictions on visitation to RACF, including for prospective residents and their families or representative, and to promote safe visitation. This includes allowing daily face-to-face visits as well as trips outside the RACF.
AHPPC also strongly encourages all visitors, aged 12 and over, to RACFs to be fully vaccinated. While the AHPPC is not recommending mandatory vaccination for visitors at this time, it may be considered in the future.
Decisions to limit visitation must be proportionate and take into account the impacts of social isolation on resident health and wellbeing.
Mandatory vaccination of residential aged care workers which is at more than 99 per cent along with the more than 90 per cent vaccination rate of residents, plus improved infection control training and processes, will assist in mitigating the risk of COVID-19 in RACFs.
Restrictions to access should be limited to when a RACF is experiencing an outbreak, in line with best practice outbreak management, or when otherwise determined at a local level.
RACF providers should follow this advice and ensure that access by visitors is undertaken using appropriate COVID‑safe precautions such as location check-in, social distancing, and the appropriate use of Personal Protective Equipment.
In addition, providers should also consider offering infection prevention and control advice and training to regular visitors so they can be aware of the precautions used in the RACF.
Work to update visitation guidelines will also be undertaken including updates to the Industry Code for Visiting Residential Aged Care Homes during COVID-19 and the National Aged Care Visitation Guidelines. Jurisdiction specific plans will also consider aged care visitation as part of a broader strategy for when community vaccination targets are achieved.