Protecting older Australians: COVID-19 update 9 April 2020
What’s new: Welfare checks to ensure the wellbeing of senior Australians, New PPE resource, Access to food and shopping services, COVID-19 POCT Rapid Testing Kids, Supporting older Australians — a reminder of resources available, Dementia behaviour support and Reminder for Providers and Workers.
This Easter break, we’re urging all Australians to stay at home to help stop the spread of COVID-19. It is going to be a difficult holiday for many — especially our older Australians. Supporting our family, friends and neighbours has never been more important.
Please also be advised that there will be no updates over the upcoming Easter break unless critical information needs to be communicated urgently.
Thank you for your continued support to protect older Australians.
Welfare Checks to Ensure the Wellbeing of Senior Australians
Welfare checks will be conducted on Senior Australians who have elected to defer aged care home services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians Richard Colbeck said home care recipients who had suspended services to avoid the risk of contracting the virus would now receive phone calls to ensure their wellbeing.
Minister Colbeck said the Australian Government is working with a number of consumer organisations — including the Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN) — to provide the additional supports.
The first of these is a welfare check outreach service for people who choose to defer their normal home care or CHSP services.
What does this mean for home care providers?
From today OPAN will be able to receive referrals from Home Care and CHSP providers where the older person or their family are reducing or cancelling services due to concerns regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. Referrals can also be made for people who may need additional aged care support related to COVID-19 restrictions so their needs can be responded to as quickly as possible.
If you are a provider of Home Care Packages or CHSP services and have clients that have deferred their service, we are asking for your assistance. In the first instance, providers are asked to speak with their clients to:
- provide assurances about the safety and infection control measures you have in place
- discuss alternative ways of meeting the client’s needs, including what plans they have to meet their needs in place of services they normally receive
- suggest a referral to OPAN to check on their wellbeing and can provide independent information for the client to consider
OPAN will call people referred to this service to:
- discuss their concerns
- answer questions regarding care provision during COVID-19
- consider the supports they may have in place and discuss the alternative aged care service provision that may be available
Follow up calls, referrals to additional services or support may occur at the age care recipient’s direction. Referrals can be received from Wednesday 8 April. Initially these referrals will be triaged before the OPAN call-back service becomes fully operational from Tuesday 13 April.
How does an aged care provider refer a care recipient?
The aged care provider has a responsibility to notify the care recipient and/or family of the referral to OPAN and that they will receive a call-back.
Providers can refer care recipients who cancel or defer this services via this quick web form. The web form will require a password which can be obtain through aged care provider peak organisations or by calling 1800 237 981.
What if the care recipient doesn’t want to participate?
If the client declines the service, providers should provide them with the OPAN advocacy national phone number 1800 700 600 in case they change their mind and want to reach out later.
Aged Care Advocacy remains available to all current and potential recipients of Commonwealth funded Aged Care through OPAN and its nine state and territory members on 1800 700 600 or at www.opan.com.au.
New PPE Resource
A new resource on When to use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in aged care has been developed, and is a useful resource for workers in both residential care and in-home care settings. While the advice included in the flowchart references entering and exiting a room, the application for in-home care remains the same for entering an exiting a home.
Helping Older, Vulnerable Australians to Access Food and Shopping Services
The Australian Government announced additional funding and services to support older, vulnerable Australians to access food and groceries.
What do these arrangements mean for my clients?
- If you have a client who would normally do their shopping and can use phone or online delivery services, they can get priority home delivery with major supermarkets like Coles and Woolworths by using their My Aged Care ID when ordering online or by phone.
- If your client isn’t able to shop online or by phone and needs assistance with grocery shopping or the supply of prepared meals:
- if you are a CHSP provider, make use of the flexibility provisions as appropriate
- if you are a Home Care Package provider, make changes to your usual services to include shopping on the client’s behalf.
- If you have a client in a crisis situation and you are not able to provide shopping or meal services, they can call My Aged Care to access a Standard Supply Pack which contains basic food supplies and household items. My Aged Care will also refer them to a provider who can offer these services.
What do these arrangements mean for service providers?
If you are a CHSP provider, you are encouraged to make use of the flexibility provisions which enable providers to direct resources and funding towards delivering critical services, such as ensuring clients have access to shopping and prepared meals. If you aren’t able to deliver these services, your client can contact My Aged Care and be referred to another service provider without an assessment.
If you are a Home Care Package provider, you should facilitate changes to a client’s usual services to include going shopping for groceries on your client’s behalf. If your client doesn’t have any funds remaining, they might be able to access additional short-term assistance from the CHSP.
Most importantly, these arrangements don’t replace the existing responsibilities of service providers to ensure the safety of their clients. Access to the Standard Supply Pack is limited and is reserved for those older Australians who are isolated, in a crisis situation and have no other forms of assistance.
COVID-19 POCT Rapid Testing Kits
A number of providers have asked questions about using Point of Care Test (POCT) rapid testing kits to test for COVID-19.
The Department is currently undertaking trials of the use of these kits and will keep you updated about any changes to this advice.
Currently, POCT has no use in detecting COVID-19 in any patient in the early stages of their illness. A negative result could mean the patient has still contracted COVID-19.
The preferred testing remains laboratory based PCR testing.
The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) advises:
- As with all serological tests, the results from these devices are not useful in the acute phase of infection.
- Further post-market performance validation work is being undertaken to assess the diagnostic performance of these tests.
- Until this work is done, we advise against the general use of these tests in primary care and residential care environments.
Supporting Older Australians
This Easter is going to be like no other for Australian families. What’s usually a big Sunday lunch, an Easter egg hunt and a few drinks with family and friends won't be happening this year.
Minister Colbeck, like many of us, is especially concerned about older Australians and how isolated they might feel this long weekend. This is a difficult time for everyone – and it’s a hundred times harder if you feel alone.
The Australian Government has released a new campaign, that is rolling out across television, radio and social media this long weekend, to remind all Australians to look out for their older family, friends and neighbours.
The Government has already announced a series of measures aimed at our older Australians boosting services across the board to make sure they have the support they need during this uncertain time. These are:
- More help at home including services like Meals on Wheels and personal care
- Working with major supermarket chains to ensure priority shopping - online and delivery services
- 36,000 free emergency food box supplies for vulnerable, older Australians
- Access through the MBS to Telehealth services so senior Australians can talk to a GP or other allied health professionals without having to leave home
- Working with pharmacies to deliver medicines to seniors at home
- Boosting funding for volunteer services to focus on phone and virtual friendships
- Setting up a new phone service where people who have said they no longer want home care have someone calling to check in on their welfare.
Reminder: Dementia Behaviour Support is Still Available
Dementia Support Australia (providers of DBMAS and SBRT) continues to support all aged care services caring for people experiencing Behavioural and Psychological Symptoms of Dementia (BPSD).
Support can be provided via face to face visits, phone or video conference consultation. Call their 24 hour service on 1800 699 799 or visit www.dementia.com.au.
Dementia Support Australia have also developed advice to help aged care providers deliver the best possible support for BPSD during this difficult time. See: Restrictive practices: understanding and managing behaviours in a time of pandemic.
Reminder for Providers and Workers
Ahead of a short break from the daily update, we would like to provide a friendly reminder on a couple of important processes:
- If there is an outbreak in your facility, all staff and residents should be tested for COVID-19. An outbreak is when there is 2 or more confirmed cases in 3 days.
- Services should be recording if any of their staff work at multiple facilities or across services, whether for the same service/employer or another. This is important to contact trace if there is a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19.
- Updated fact sheets for Aged Care:
- Information on how to access medical support and medicine from home
- Flowchart outlining when to wear PPE
- Material from the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission
- Training modules for Aged Care workers
- Updated FAQs
- Advice and resources for CHSP providers and staff
- Information regarding workforce measures
- New training module: Laundry