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:

  1. Let your healthcare worker know if you are not feeling well
  2. Wash your hands regularly
  3. Know the visitor restriction rules in your facility
  4. Remind your visitors of restrictions and good hygiene
  5. Know how to stay in touch with loved ones when they can’t visit
  6. 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.

The Six steps to stop the spread fact sheet for residents provides further information. This fact sheet is also available in many different languages.

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.

If you are displaying COVID-19 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.

Vaccinations

It is very important that you reduce the risk of getting other illnesses while
COVID-19 remains in our community.

Public health orders established by states and territories set influenza vaccination requirements for residential aged care visitors and staff.

Visitors should remain up to date with the public health orders in their jurisdictions.

Residents of an aged care facility have the right to choose to have vaccinations or not. 

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

 

Current restrictions

The AHPPC has provided advice on visitation for residential aged care facilities during COVID-19. State and territory governments enact the AHPPC advice in the context of local conditions and circumstances.

All states and territories have established public health orders that set out requirements about entry into and visitors to residential aged care facilities. Facilities in all states and territories must follow directions on entry restrictions to residential aged care. Find them in the following links:

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 or territory websites above.

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)
  • need isolation or quarantine (unless directed by and managed per the direction of the local public health unit).

The Code

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 may have strict procedures for visitors to follow in line with jurisdictional directions. Visitors may need to:

  • 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 home when unwell.

Some states and territories may require visitors to provide details on their current health status to staff of the residential aged care facility, including evidence of their flu vaccination.

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.

Please check your state or territory public health orders for details of restrictions.

Visitor requirements while at a residential aged care facility

Visitors must:

  • 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.

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

For information about COVID-19 and vaccines call 1800 020 080. This line operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with additional options for priority groups.

View contact

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

View contact

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 a doctor.

Last updated: 
23 April 2021

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