Coronavirus (COVID-19) advice for older people and carers

People aged 70 years and over, people with compromised immune systems, and people with some chronic medical conditions are at greater risk of more serious illness from COVID-19.

Older people are at risk

The risk of serious illness from COVID-19 increases with age. The rate is higher for those with other serious health conditions or a weakened immune system.

People living with dementia or some form of cognitive impairment may find it difficult to follow instructions to reduce the risk of getting COVID-19, or alert others about potential symptoms.

This applies particularly when people have a limited capacity to communicate verbally or express pain and discomfort.

The roll-out of the national COVID-19 vaccination program is expected to begin in February. Residential aged care workers and residents are a priority and will be among the first people in Australia to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

The Australian Government’s COVID-19 Vaccines National Rollout Strategy has more information about the phases of the vaccine rollout.

However, there is currently no cure for coronavirus and vaccination has not begun. There is no immunity in the community, so you need to protect yourself.

Protecting yourself

As we move towards a COVIDSafe Australia, people at greater risk of serious illness if they get COVID-19 need to take extra steps to protect themselves.

Best defences

Flu vaccination

It is important to have a flu vaccination every year to protect yourself and others. Older Australians are more at risk of becoming seriously ill from the flu. We recommend flu vaccination for:

  • older Australians
  • family and friends of older Australians
  • anyone working with older people, including in retirement villages.

Vaccination protects the wider community from the flu. It also avoids placing additional strain on our healthcare system. The flu vaccination reduces the risk of  getting the flu and COVID-19 at the same time. Please note the flu vaccination does not prevent COVID-19.

Symptoms

Check your symptoms with our symptoms checker.

If you have serious symptoms such as difficulty breathing call 000, ask for an ambulance and notify the officers if you have been in contact with anyone with COVID-19.

If you develop mild symptoms of COVID-19:

  • call a doctor, tell them about your symptoms and whether you have had contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19
  • you can also attend a COVID-19 clinic in your area or call the National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080.

Medical appointments and medicines

You can access bulk-billed appointments with your doctor, nurse or mental health professional via phone or videoconference. Contact your doctor to arrange a telehealth appointment.

Accessing medicines while staying at home

Your doctor may be able to arrange for your prescriptions to be sent directly to your pharmacy so you can stay at home. For more information on whether you can access this service, please call your pharmacy and ask them about arranging this.

Assistance with food and meals

If you are over 65 years, or over 50 years for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, need emergency support and/or are living in a COVID-19 hotspot, you may be able to access:

  • home delivery of prepared meals, food staples and essential daily items
  • priority grocery shopping by ordering via phone or online.

Many Commonwealth funded providers, such as Meals on Wheels, can assist you with access to regular food supplies and prepared meals. Other services under the Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP) can also help with grocery shopping or providing meals. This may include domestic assistance (unaccompanied shopping) and meals delivered to the home.

Call My Aged Care on 1800 200 422 to connect with these services. If you are not already registered with My Aged Care, you can register immediately over the phone. Services can be arranged quickly for up to 6 weeks without any assessment.

If you are already receiving aged care services, you can also arrange these services directly with your provider.

CHSP and home care services during COVID-19

Aged care providers are continuing to deliver services through in-home and residential care settings, although some might have revised the way they do this. 

Please note, simplified access to urgent services due to COVID-19 now means you do not require an aged care assessment.

  • Find out more about these services online at My Aged Care or call them on 1800 200 422.
  • Get further information on new home care packages available during COVID-19.

In addition, your provider will be able to give you more information about the way local restrictions might impact on your care and services. Providers and their staff are trained to deliver safe services which include:

  • when and how to use personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • how to practise physical distancing during service delivery
  • how to prevent and control infections
  • how to manage an outbreak if one occurs.

Support to live with family during COVID-19

Emergency support is available through CHSP for aged care residents who choose to take emergency leave and temporarily move out of residential care due to COVID-19.

Support is available for up to 8 weeks.

Read more about emergency leave.

Wellbeing support

The Older Persons COVID-19 Support Line – 1800 171 866

  • Calls are free.
  • Helps older people, their loved ones and carers stay connected and continue receiving the services they need during the pandemic.
  • Find out about COVID-19 restrictions and aged care support services.
  • Talk to someone about mental health.
  • If you have concerns about yourself, a friend or a family member living with dementia, you can speak with a trained Dementia Australia advisor.

If you prefer to speak in a language other than English, an interpreter can help. Call the Translating and Interpreting Service on 131 450 and ask for your language. Then you can ask the interpreter to connect you to the Older Persons COVID-19 Support Line.

Community Visitors Scheme

  • Provides older Australians with friendship, companionship and social connection.
  • Connects people with volunteers to spend time with them on a regular basis.
  • Visits are available to anyone receiving government-subsidised residential aged care or home care.

During the coronavirus pandemic, we are focusing on phone and virtual friendships while physical distancing measures and visiting restrictions are in place.

Read about the program and how to register.

Head to Health

  • The Head to Health website has a range of resources for people who need help coping with anxiety or worry.

  • It also provides links to trusted Australian online and phone supports, resources and treatment options.

Friend Line telephone support service – 1800 4 CHATS, 1800 424 287

  • A free and anonymous telephone service for senior Australians to chat with a volunteer.

Beyond Blue – 1300 22 4636

  • Beyond Blue provides dedicated COVID-19 resources to help you manage your wellbeing and mental health.
  • Accredited mental health professionals provide a phone counselling service which is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Advice for carers

During the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever for carers to support their loved ones. We encourage all carers to access the support you need to maintain your own health and wellbeing.

Carer Gateway - 1800 422 737

Respite care

  • Call Carer Gateway on 1800 422 737 for emergency respite care.
  • Call My Aged Care on 1800 200 422 for planned respite care.

Respite providers are trained to deliver respite services safely. This includes hand hygiene, physical distancing, use of PPE and monitoring health.

Please be aware that some respite providers have reduced their services during the COVID-19 pandemic. This relates particularly to centre-based day respite and cottage respite.

More information

My Aged Care

Visit the My Aged Care website to find information about how to access Australian Government–funded aged care services. You can apply for an assessment online and search for local aged care providers that meet your needs. You can also call Monday to Friday, 8 am to 8 pm, and Saturday, 10 am to 2 pm.

View contact

National Coronavirus Helpline

If you need information about COVID-19, COVID-19 vaccines or help with the COVIDSafe app, call 1800 020 080. If you need assistance with booking a COVID-19 vaccine appointment, please note the call centre is unable to book appointments on your behalf. The line operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN) contact

Contact OPAN if you need advocacy support for government-subsidised aged care, or you’re a service provider seeking education about aged care rights and responsibilities. Call the number below to connect to the free advocacy service in your state or territory.

enquiries [at] opan.com.au

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Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National)

TIS National is for people who do not speak English and for agencies and businesses that need to communicate with their non-English speaking clients.

View contact

Contact your local state and territory health departments for information about your local health system arrangements. 

If you have concerns about your health, speak to your doctor.

Translated resources

Last updated: 
8 February 2021

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