COVID-19 advice for people in residential aged care home and visitors

Residents and visitors need to keep up to date with changes in residential aged care. Managers, staff, family, friends and residents need to work together to protect older people in aged care homes.

Advice for care recipients

Your safety and wellbeing are our greatest priorities. The measures we have put in place aim to keep you safe from COVID-19.

There are steps you can take 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 guidelines for visitors in your home.
  4. Remind your visitors of the homes guidelines and practise good hygiene.
  5. Know how to stay in touch with loved ones when they can’t visit.
  6. Consider temporarily staying with family during a COVID-19 outbreak.

If you want to talk with someone about COVID-19 and the impact on you, you can make a free call to the National Coronavirus Helpline.

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 homes.

If you are unwell, regardless of whether you have returned a positive COVID-19 test result, you should avoid interacting with others where possible.

Health care and residential care workers will continue to support and care for you during this period.

If you need to leave your room, such as for medical care, and in line with state or territory requirements, health care workers will provide you with a surgical mask and help you to put it on, if it is required.

Residents who are well will not need to wear a mask.

Vaccinations

Residential aged care workers may be required by a state or territory public health order to be up to date with their COVID-19 vaccinations.

Vaccination continues to be important in managing the risk related to COVID-19 in high-risk settings such as residential aged care

Residents of an aged care home 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.

COVID-19 oral antiviral treatments

Lagevrio® (molnupiravir) and Paxlovid® (nirmatrelvir plus ritonavir) are two oral antiviral medicines that may help stop a COVID-19 infection from becoming severe. Both treatments have shown to reduce the chance of a person needing admission to hospital for treatment and severe illness.

Lagevrio and Paxlovid are listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and available from pharmacies with a prescription.

All Australians aged 70 years or over who test positive to COVID-19, with or without symptoms can access these oral antivirals on the PBS.

Also eligible are:

  • people over 50 with 2 risk factors for developing severe disease
  • First Nations people, aged 30 years or over, with one risk factor
  • people aged 18 years or older, with moderate to severe immunocompromise.

Treatment should be offered to every person 70 years of age or older who tests positive for COVID-19 (regardless of setting), where clinically appropriate, within 24 hours of a positive test.

Treatment should be commenced as soon as possible after a diagnosis of COVID-19 and within 5 days of symptom onset (or, for asymptomatic adults 70 years of age or older, as soon as possible after diagnosis by RAT or PCR is confirmed). Older people receiving oral antiviral treatments should be closely monitored for side effects.

These medications are also safe to take again if you have a second or subsequent infection.

To facilitate speedy access and best practice treatment in a residential aged care setting, residential aged care homes are encouraged to pre-assess any potentially eligible residents.

For further information, see Oral treatments for COVID-19.

Residents admitted from other health facilities

It is recommended that residential aged care home actively screen for symptoms of COVID-19 in residents being admitted or re-admitted from other health facilities and community settings. 

Appropriate infection prevention and control practices should be implemented for residents returning from treatment or care at other facilities. 

Further information can be found in the Communicable Diseases Network Australia (CDNA) National Guidelines.

Supporting visitations

The impact of social isolation on elderly Australians’ mental, social, physical and emotional wellbeing is of vital importance. Aged care services should do what they can to ensure timely access to medically appropriate care services and ongoing access to visitors.

AHPPC national aged care visitation guidelines

The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) supports having visitors in residential aged care homes in the least restrictive manner possible:

  • visits must be in line with the known or likely wishes and preferences of residents
  • visitors include family, friends, visiting health workers and support staff.

Industry Code for Visiting in Aged Care Homes

The aged care peak body and consumer advocacy organisations have released an Industry Code for Visiting Residential Aged Care Homes (the Code). The Code is a national approach to ensure you 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 home.

The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission provides information on:

Know the visitor guidelines at your home

Visitors can include family, friends, visiting health workers and support staff. Residents should make staff aware of their wishes and preferences for visits.

Visitors to residential aged care that have tested positive for COVID-19 must not visit high-risk settings like residential aged care homes for at least 7 days after testing positive and until they have no symptoms of COVID-19.

Further information on what controls may be in place depending on the COVID-19 situation in the community is available via the COVID-19 Restriction Checker.

Current restrictions

All states and territories still provide advice on entry to residential aged care homes.

Find them in the following links:

Remind your visitors to keep up to date with this advice by regularly visiting the state or territory websites above.

Under current advice, some people should not visit a residential aged care home. This includes people who:

  • have tested positive to COVID-19 in the past 7 days
  • have been in contact with someone confirmed to have COVID-19 in the past 7 days
  • are unwell, including with a fever or symptoms of acute respiratory illness (such as a cough, sore throat, runny nose, shortness of breath)

What visitors need to do

To enter a residential aged care home

Aged care homes 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, i.e. take a RAT test
  • 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.

Visitors who have tested positive to COVID-19 must not enter a residential aged care home for at least 7 days or until they no longer have symptoms.

Visitor requirements while at a residential aged care home

Visitors must:

  • supervise any accompanying children
  • practise good hand hygiene
  • comply with directions given by staff
  • follow any other requirements put in in place by your residential aged care home.

Call the home if you wish to visit to ask what processes are in place.

If you have concerns with the home's requirements or actions, contact the:

  • Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission on 1800 951 822
  • Older Person’s Advocacy Network (OPAN) on 1800 700 600

Visits to residents receiving palliative care  

  • Residents who are receiving palliative care can receive visitors.
  • Sometimes the home may need to increase infection prevention controls due to local circumstances or an outbreak.
  • 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 or friends during COVID-19

Emergency leave type is available for permanent aged care residents to stay with friends or family during COVID-19 outbreaks. This type of emergency leave is available until 30 June 2023. 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.

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.

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.

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