The federal government has issued a reminder to home care package providers that they are legally obliged to continue to provide services despite COVID-19 lockdowns.

They must also prepare for any impact lockdown may have on their services, including having an emergency plan ready.

In a communication to the sector, the health department says providers remain bound by ‘security of tenure’ requirements which mean they must continue to deliver care and services as long as a care recipient needs them.

“In-home aged care services that are necessary for the health and safety of care recipients must continue to be delivered during periods of lockdown where it is safe to do so and in line with the relevant state or territory public health order,” the circular says.

Services include personal care, nursing, domestic help and essential transport such as trips to medical appointments.

Provision of home maintenance, modifications and goods, equipment and assistive technology must also continue where it’s necessary for the health and safety of clients.

Providers should also continue with allied health and therapy services such as physiotherapy, podiatry and OT, as well as phone and online social support.

Need to be proactive

Providers can only pause or stop delivering home care under certain conditions, including lack of resources or a client notifies a provider in writing that they no longer wasn’t services.

Other conditions include a change in the care recipients condition, failure by the client to pay the providers or if a client had intentionally caused serious harm to a staff member.

The government says providers must also ‘proactively’ prepare for potential impacts to their service delivery.

“This includes developing emergency including development of emergency care plans for care recipients,” the government says.

“These plans should aim to minimise disruption for care recipients and should be communicated with care recipients and their representatives.”

Concern for home care clients

Meanwhile, the Older Persons’s Advocacy Network OPAN says it’s time to start having a discussion with older people about how they can prepare for the lifting of restrictions as Australia hits vaccine targets.

Craig Gear

Older people receiving aged care in their own homes, along with those in residential care, have been restricted in the harshest ways throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, OPAN CEO Craig Gear says.

“We need to be planning for this now and communicating with older people about how they can prepare,” Mr Gear said.

“Restrictions should not be more significant for fully vaccinated older Australians than they are for anyone else.

“We should be doing everything we can to support older people getting back to doing what they love with the people they love as soon as they can do so safely.”

This story first ran on Community Care Review.

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