Leading Age Services Australia (LASA), the voice of aged care, continues to recommend a precautionary approach to visitor restrictions in residential aged care, on a home-by-home basis, with the protection of residents and staff from COVID-19 a critical priority.

“Aged care providers and their staff have been side by side with their residents and their families throughout this crisis, working tirelessly to protect them from infection, soothe their anxiety and support their physical, social and emotional needs as best they can,” LASA CEO Sean Rooney said.

“Providers are acutely aware of the stress and pressure visitor restrictions and other infection control measures place on residents, families and staff. Decisions to implement these measures are not taken lightly and are in place with the specific intent to save lives.

“Notwithstanding the tragic loss of lives in some residential care facilities in Australia to coronavirus, the aged care sector is to be commended for the low rates of infection experienced by residents and staff to date. This is due to a singular focus on the health and wellbeing of those we care for.”

Residential care providers have been working with residents, families and advocates on ensuring their safety, whilst also being open to relaxing restrictions on a case-by-case basis based on compassionate grounds.

“Implied criticism of providers who have – in consultation with families and communities – taken more precautionary measures to protect residents and save lives have caused alarm and anger among the care sector,” Mr Rooney said.

“The reality is that, if providers in COVID-19 hotspots like Sydney and elsewhere had not gone beyond the official guidance when it was first issued there would likely have been many more outbreaks with dire consequences for the safety of residents and staff.

“The judgements made by age care providers in complying with Government directives on visitation restrictions and escalating them in response to local risk factors, have been overwhelmingly supported by families and communities and have saved lives.

“This approach has previously been acknowledged by the Government and the Aged Care Quality Safety Commission as appropriate, given the risk to vulnerable older Australians in care.”

If a resident or their family member or advocate feels that an aged care operator is being unreasonable with regards to restricted visitation measures, then this needs to be discussed directly with the care provider.

If this is not satisfactorily resolved, then the Older Persons Advocacy Network or the Aged Care Quality & Safety Commission can be contacted to assist further.  In the event that an aged care operator is investigated by the regulator and found to be in breach of the quality standards then the appropriate measures need to be taken to address this.

“Aged care operators are on maximum alert and this has seen aged care homes investing strongly in screening of visitors and their workforce, providing protective equipment and escalated infection controls, providing additional staffing, and introducing technology and systems to ensure family and community connections are maintained, alongside high standards in care quality,” said Mr Rooney.

“These costs amount to much more than the $2 a day per resident that the Government has so far allocated to assist aged care to cope with the ongoing costs COVID-19. Remembering that residential care operators were losing on average $6.40 per resident per day before the crisis began.”

With an independent report showing over 50% of aged care providers are currently operating at a loss this situation cannot continue if we are to protect vulnerable older Australians in care.  That is why the peak aged care organisations are calling for a comprehensive rescue package for the industry, including funding for pandemic leave for staff.

“This is a time when we all need to work together to protect each other from COVID-19, especially those older Australians in our communities who are most at risk,” said Mr Rooney.

“The overwhelming majority of aged care operators and their passionate and professional staff are doing an outstanding job – in very difficult circumstances and with limited resources – in caring for and protecting the older Australians in their care. They deserve to be praised for their efforts.”

LASA welcomes the extension of COVID-19 testing because – as overseas experience tragically shows – aged care is at the frontline of the fight against coronavirus deaths.

For further information call: Nick Way on 0419 835 449