The consumer peak body for older Australians is calling on aged care providers to “not ruin Christmas” by preventing or overly restricting visitors from seeing their loved ones.

Council on the Ageing Australia (COTA) chief executive Ian Yates said while most aged care providers have in place good length in-person visits, there are several reports that aged care homes are preventing residents from seeing their loved ones, or excessively restricting visits.

“Aged care residents have been the worst affected by this pandemic. Many were left feeling afraid and isolated this year, cut off from visits and support from family and loved ones as aged care homes slammed their doors closed, with many throwing away the key for too long,” Mr Yates said.

Ian Yates

“Every one of us needs love and connection, particularly after the events of this year. A few rogue providers doing the wrong thing must not ruin Christmas for those who have waited so long to spend time with their loved ones again,” he said.

Mr Yates said older Australians deserve to see their loved ones in person and not through window visits, which is not regarded a visit under the aged care visitor code.

“It is the duty of providers to make sure visits can take place at a range of times such as on weekends, early evening, and over the Christmas holidays, with all agreed precautions,” Mr Yates said.

The visitor code has been updated to freely permit visits with appropriate infection control procedures in aged care homes.

“There is simply no reason why providers should be cutting the people in their care off from their loved ones,” he said.

Aged care regulator launches campaign to support visits

Elsewhere, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission has developed a visitor access campaign to support aged care organisations to manage safe visits.

The visitor access campaign, which will continue into 2021, will support the aged care sector transition into a COVID-normal operating environment and provides resources for aged care services and guidance for aged care consumers and their families.

The visitor access campaign includes:

Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner Janet Anderson said it is important for providers to take proactive steps to enable people in aged care to enjoy the company of their loved ones in person.

Janet Anderson

“Doing everything possible to ensure people receiving aged care are safe from the COVID-19 virus is vitally important. Of equal importance is supporting the physical, social and emotional wellbeing of residents in aged care facilities and ensuring they have regular access to family and friends all year round, and particularly at this time of year,” Ms Anderson said.

“Residents, families and the wider community expect that approved providers of residential aged care services are addressing both safety and access imperatives, and the commission is looking for providers to demonstrate how they are reflecting this in their visitor arrangements,” she said.

Ms Anderson said she has written to all aged care providers requesting they focus on best practice infection prevention and supporting the physical, social and emotional wellbeing of residents by ensuring they have regular access to family and friends.

The aged care regulator expects all providers appreciate the risks to residents caused by isolation and ensure appropriate visitor access, Ms Anderson said.

“Where visitor access risks are identified, the commission will undertake unannounced visitor access spot checks. Further regulatory action may be taken to ensure that the provider is meeting their obligations under the Aged Care Quality Standards,” she said.

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