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.

COVID-19 vaccination, including booster doses, is voluntary but strongly encouraged for older Australians.

Vaccination remains the most effective protection against severe illness, hospitalisation and death from COVID-19.

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Protecting yourself

COVID-19 vaccinations are free for everyone in Australia.

Getting vaccinated is the best way to keep you, your family, friends, and the community safe.

It is also 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.

Treatment

More people who are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 are now eligible for oral antiviral treatments, taken as tablets or capsules at home.

You may be eligible if you’re:

  • 70 years and older
  • 50 years and older with 2 risk factors
  • a First Nations person 30 years and older with 2 risk factors
  • 18 years and older and immunocompromised.

Talk to your health professional about your risk factors and treatment options.

Best defences

  • Maintain good hygiene and physical distancing when interacting with other people.
  • Have the chemist deliver your medicines while staying at home
  • Have groceries and essential items delivered to your home

Symptoms

You can use our COVID-19 symptom checker to find out if you need to get tested or seek medical help.

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 call the National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080.

Medical appointments and medicines

Support is available if you need help accessing health care or medicines.

Aged 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.

Service providers will be able to give you more information about the way local circumstances 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.

Temporary emergency support to live with family during COVID-19

Emergency support is available through the Commonwealth Home Support Programme (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 and the Tier and Tier 2 services available through the CHSP.

Wellbeing support

The National Coronavirus Helpline – 1800 020 080

  • Calls are free.
  • Find out about COVID-19 vaccines and aged care support services.
  • Talk to someone about mental health.

If you prefer to speak in a language other than English, an interpreter can help.

If you need an interpreter call the National Coronavirus Helpline on18 00 020 080 and choose option 8.

Community Visitors Scheme

Older Australians who receive government-subsidised residential aged care or Home Care Packages can have volunteer visitors through the Community Visitors Scheme. 

The 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.

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.

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.

Easy Vaccine Access (EVA) contact

For help making a COVID-19 vaccination booking, message ‘Hey EVA’ to the EVA call back service on 0481 611 382. EVA operates from 7 am to 10 pm (AEST), 7 days a week.

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 your doctor.

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