Aged care peak body Aged and Community Services Australia is urging the Federal Government to release a roadmap for residential aged care homes in lockdown to safely open their facilities to visitors.

Aged care homes in New South Wales and Victoria have again been subject to restrictions recently for several months that have put a halt to in-person visitors.

Aged care homes are used to shutting down for a couple of weeks or a month at most if there is a flu or gastro outbreak, but these lengthy lockdowns are much more detrimental, said ACSA CEO Paul Sadler.

“This long-term shutdown that we’re experiencing with COVID is having an impact on residents in terms of their mental health and wellbeing, but it’s also having an impact on families and close friends,” Mr Sadler told Australian Ageing Agenda.

The aged care sector needs clarity from the government about plans to open up, Mr Sadler said.

“Some sort of roadmap will be a relief to everybody in aged care, but particularly for residents,” he said.

Paul Sadler

“Our members have been making as much effort as they humanly can to keep people in touch with families” through technology, visiting pods and window visits.

“But … in the current environment we can’t do enough to keep people connected, so we need a roadmap that safely allows families and friends back into aged care and allows residents to go safely out,” Mr Sadler said.

He says it is possible to “begin the move to safely reopening” with some additional measures.

“There is risk still that people can be double vaccinated yet still be carrying the disease. So, we believe that you need to look at supplementary protection mechanisms like rapid antigen tests,” he said.

The NSW and Victorian governments have shared their roadmaps to reopening the state from lockdown, but have not specified what that means for the residential aged care sector.

Consumer peak body COTA Australia chief executive Ian Yates criticised the state governments for leaving out aged care from the reopening plan, as reported in The Guardian.

Mr Sadler said he agreed.

“It’s actually unconscionable to leave aged care out. You can’t have an opening up plan and leave aged care residents and their families completely out of the picture,” Mr Sadler said.

ACSA has been speaking with Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services Richard Colbeck and chief advisors to Minister for Health and Aged Care Greg Hunt about the need to reopen aged care homes to visitors.

“Minister Colbeck made this comment last week that there has been a request to the aged care advisory group to the AHPPC [Australian Health Protection Principal Committee] for advice eventually to go through the National Cabinet on how to have an approach to reopening for aged care.

“It’s not that the government, federal and state, aren’t thinking about it. But they actually have to tell everybody very soon what that plan actually is,” Mr Sadler said.

“We just need some clarity from the authorities about which way they plan to go on this,” he said.

AAA has contacted Mr Colbeck about a plan to open aged care homes to visitors.

AAA understands the guidelines are under review and more information is expected later in the week.

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3 Comments

  1. these residents need to see those they remember and know .
    It has been extremely difficult to explain to an Advanced Dementia resident that his wife hasnt died she just cant visit.
    The decline in those already failing is more than noticeable.
    Please get the decisions made.
    We have a weekly bus trip that is greatly missed, our residents do not leave the bus and are so excited to go, our driver is fully vaxed and still we have to say no to residents who do not understand.
    Please make the decisions necessary to allow these residents and all aged care to have their loved ones engage in their lives once more.

  2. My Mam is in Inasmuch community age care. They have done a wonderful job. But my husband and my self have not been able to see her. She is 95 and cannot hear or see we have been vaccinated she has and has untreatable melanoma we have missed precious to together here’s hoping the power s that be can catch up on something. Thanks

  3. There is a glaring omission from the Andrews Government Roadmap to recovery and easing of restrictions announced on Sunday Oct 17th 2021.

    The topic of opening facilities to support the vulnerable elderly to share time with loved ones as not been addressed.

    High daily Covid figures in Victoria are of huge concern. The answer isn’t to ignore this sector of society and react in a risk adverse manner keeping doors locked.

    The Hon Greg Hunt needs to readdress the National Cabinet Plan, mandate vaccinations for visitors and advocate for the funding of rapid antigen testing.

    The generation living in Care have given so much to our country. It is time that our government shows them the respect they deserve. It is time to reintroduce “life” back into their journey.

    https://www.health.gov.au/ministers/the-hon-greg-hunt-mp/media/aged-care-residents-to-welcome-back-visitors

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