Coronavirus (COVID-19) advice for people in residential aged care facilities and visitors
Residents and their visitors need to keep up to date with changes in residential aged care to protect residents during COVID-19. Managers, staff, family, friends and residents need to work together to protect older people in aged care facilities.
Advice for care recipients
Your safety and wellbeing is our greatest priority. The measures we have put in place aim to keep you safe from COVID-19.
There are six steps to keep yourself safe from COVID-19 while in residential care:
- Let your healthcare worker know if you are not feeling well
- Wash your hands regularly
- Know the visitor restriction rules in your facility
- Remind your visitors of restrictions and good hygiene
- Know how to stay in touch with loved ones when they can’t visit
- Temporarily stay with family during COVID-19.
If you want to talk with someone about COVID-19 restrictions and their impact on you, you can make a free call to the Older Persons COVID-19 Support Line.
If you are not feeling well
You must report any symptoms of COVID-19, no matter how mild, to your health care worker. They will assess you and may want you to be tested for COVID-19 as a precaution. COVID-19 testing is available for all residents of residential aged care facilities.
While you are displaying symptoms, you will be kept separate from other residents in your facility. You will not be able to see visitors during this period.
Health care and residential care workers will continue to support and care for you during any isolation period.
If you need to leave your room, such as for medical care, health care workers will provide you with a surgical mask and help you to put it on.
Residents who are well will not need to wear a mask.
It is very important that you reduce the risk of getting other illnesses while
COVID-19 remains in our community.
While visitors and staff must have a flu vaccination, residents of an aged care facility have the right to refuse vaccinations.
Talk to your doctor about whether you should also have the flu vaccination, which is recommended for everyone over 65. You should also discuss having a shingles vaccination.
Residents admitted from other health facilities
Your residential aged care facility will actively screen for symptoms of COVID-19 in residents being admitted or re-admitted from other health facilities and community settings. New residents with COVID-19 symptoms are not permitted to enter a residential aged care facility.
Appropriate infection prevention practices should be implemented for residents returning from treatment or care at other facilities. This could mean going into isolation for a period after re-admittance.
Further information can be found in the Communicable Diseases Network Australia (CDNA) National Guidelines.
Know the visitor restrictions at your facility
- The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee supports the least restrictive visiting manner possible for visitors to residents of aged care facilities.
- Visitors include family, friends, visiting health workers and support staff.
- Residents should make staff aware of their wishes and preferences for visits.
- Further information on what restrictions may be put in place depending on the COVID-19 situation in the community is available in National guidance on escalation tiers and aged care provider responses.
Under current restrictions, some people cannot visit a residential aged care facility. This includes people who:
- have returned from overseas in the past 14 days
- have been in contact with someone confirmed to have COVID-19 in the past 14 days
- are unwell, including with a fever or symptoms of acute respiratory illness (such as a cough, sore throat, runny nose, shortness of breath)
- do not have an up-to-date vaccination against influenza (unless they meet the exemptions of their state or territory, see directions below).
Facilities in all states and territories must follow directions on visitor restrictions to residential aged care. These can be found at the following links:
- New South Wales
- South Australia
- Western Australia
- Australian Capital Territory
- Northern Territory
States and territories will update their directions periodically to align with the evolving COVID-19 situation. Remind your visitors to keep up to date with changes by regularly visiting the state of territory websites above.
Aged care peak bodies and consumer advocacy organisations have released an Industry Code for Visiting Residential Aged Care Homes. The Code is a national approach to ensure your loved ones can receive visitors safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Code sets out the respective rights and responsibilities of providers, residents and visitors. Residential aged care facilities should:
- allow residents to meet their visitors safely during the pandemic
- minimise the risk of introducing or spreading COVID-19 within the residential aged care facility.
What visitors need to do
To enter a residential aged care facility
Aged care facilities will also have strict procedures for visitors to follow. Visitors will need to:
- provide details on their current health status to staff of the residential aged care facility, including evidence of their flu vaccination
- be willing to undergo a screening process before they enter
- wash their hands before entering and upon leaving a resident’s room
- stay 1.5 metres away from residents, where possible
- stay away when unwell.
Evidence of a flu vaccination may be:
- a statement or record from a health practitioner
- an immunisation history statement available from Medicare online
- the Express Plus Medicare mobile app.
Aged care providers must take all reasonable steps to prevent visitors who do not meet entry requirements in their state or territory from entering the facility.
Visitor requirements while at a residential aged care facility
- supervise any accompanying children
- practise good hand hygiene
- comply with directions given by facility staff
- follow any other requirements put in in place by your residential aged care facility.
Call the facility if you wish to visit to ask what processes are in place.
If you have concerns with the facility’s requirements or actions, contact the:
- Older Person’s Advocacy Network on 1800 700 600
- Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission on 1800 951 822.
A helpful guide on visitor restrictions is the ‘Six Steps to stop the spread for families and visitors’ which is also available in many languages.
Visits to residents receiving palliative care
- Visits are allowed to residents who are receiving palliative care.
- Sometimes the facility may need to increase restrictions due to local circumstances.
- Providers are expected to show compassion and make sensible decisions on a case-by-case basis for residents receiving palliative care.
Ways to stay in touch remotely
Sometimes you will not be able to visit a resident in aged care as often as you would like. You can keep in touch and stay connected by:
- phone calls
- video calls
- social communication apps
- sending a postcard
- sharing photos, artwork or short home videos.
These alternatives will limit your exposure to COVID-19.
There are supports available for people who may feel anxious about possible changes to their day-to-day life. For those living with a cognitive impairment, you can also contact the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500.
Temporarily stay with family during COVID-19
A new emergency leave type is now available for permanent aged care residents. This allows you to stay with friends or family during COVID-19. Emergency leave is available until 30 June 2021. Read more about emergency leave.
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.
National coronavirus and COVID-19 vaccine helpline
If you need information about COVID-19, COVID-19 vaccines or help with the COVIDSafe app, call the telephone number listed below. If you need assistance with booking a COVID-19 vaccine appointment, please note the call centre is unable to book appointments on your behalf.
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.
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.
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 a doctor.