A group of 13 provider peak bodies and consumer advocacy organisations have released a co-developed industry code outlining provider and visitor rights and responsibilities for aged facilities during the coronavirus pandemic.

The ‘Industry Code for Visiting Residential Aged Care Homes during COVID-19’ creates a nationally consistent approach that ensures residents can receive visitors while minimising the risk of spreading COVID-19.

It includes the providers’ responsibility to facilitate safe in-person visits and connections in other ways between residents and their loved ones, including using technology, windows and balconies.

It also highlights that providers will increase communication when they need to limit the number of in-person visits or replace them with other ways to connect in order to minimise the introduction of the virus into a facility.

The code comes after many aged care facilities implemented stronger restrictions than those recommended by National Cabinet and Australian Health Protection Principal Committee, thousands of complaints from angry relatives and a direction to comply from the Prime Minister (read more here).

While Australia is faring far better than many countries overseas, 63 aged care residents have tested positive for COVID-19 to date, and 26 residents have died from the virus to date, which is more than a quarter of the 97 COVID-19 deaths nationally.

Most of the aged care deaths have occurred at Anglicare Sydney’s Newmarch House in western Sydney, where 16 residents have died to date.

They are among a cluster of 69 cases of 32 staff and 37 residents linked to the facility, which as appointed an independent adviser as directed by the quality regulator (read more here).

The code, which was finalised following public consultation with consumers and providers, follows a human rights approach to care that aims to protect and respect aged care residents and their visitors (read more here).

It acknowledges the work providers and staff are doing to keep residents and staff safe during the pandemic and includes the respective rights and responsibilities of providers, residents and visitors.

Patricia Sparrow

For their part, visitors will need to undergo screeningand show proof of an Influenza vaccination for the 2020 season before entering the facility.

The code will be reviewed on 29 May to address implementation issues and ensure it responds to concerns.

Aged & Community Services chief executive officer Patricia Sparrow said the code and the review were both essential.

“We need to monitor this closely because we can’t afford to get complacent. The price paid by older people in aged care will be too high,” Ms Sparrow said.

Richard Colbeck

Minister for Aged Care Australians Richard Colbeck said the guidelines struck the important balance of ensuring the health of residents and social connections during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It lays out a clear definition of the responsibilities of providers and visitors as they navigate this extraordinary health crisis,” he said.

The code has been developed and endorsed by:

  • Aged & Community Services Australia
  • Aged Care Guild
  • Anglicare Australia
  • Baptist Care Australia
  • Catholic Health Australia
  • Leading Age Services Australia
  • UnitingCare Australia
  • Carers Australia
  • Council on the Ageing Australia
  • Dementia Australia
  • Federation of Ethnic Communities Council of Australia
  • National Seniors Australia
  • Older Persons Advocacy Network

Download the code here.

Aged care providers and other industry stakeholders can email concerns and feedback to visitoraccesscode@agedservices.asn.au while consumers should email their feedback to AgedCareVisitorsCode@cota.org.au.

Comment below to have your say on this story.

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10 Comments

  1. Thank you for trying to help. As much as I appreciate & understand the need to protect our most vulnerable, some nursing homes don’t take into to account the every day visits for several hrs a day. I have been full on care to both parents (my father passed away 7 mths ago) for the past 7 yrs – to be with them at meal times, shower them, talk with them, do their washing, mend their clothes, take them & attend to medical appointments, check & monitor their overall well being.
    Contact their Dr when needed. My mom’s nursing home will not even compromise with me. I have tried to negotiate that I am willing to wear protective gear. I have been tested (all clear), I have quit my job so I can be safe around my mom & all the staff and residents but to no avail. I am absolutely gutted at not being able to take care of my mom. The darling has dementia. She does ask me why I don’t come to see her and has she done something wrong. It’s like a stab in the chest. We are only now allowed 30 min once per week, 10am -5pm, Mon-Fri. Too bad if one works full-time. Unfortunately nursing homes have far too much power and some are not compassionate towards the families. They will do what suits them. I sound bitter I am sorry but I am struggling. This has affected me so much as well. Thank you for listening.

  2. Advocates like myself are more likely to hear negative stories. Nonetheless, I have heard from many family members whose experiences are like Helen’s. They too “have tried to negotiate” to no avail.
    I am currently writing a proposal to collect qualitative data about experiences (both good and bad) of Covid-19 from residents in aged care homes, recipients of HCPs, families and staff (both residential and home care). It will be interesting to see if anyone is interested in supporting this project.

  3. FYI “Server Error” for link to download code 404 – File or directory not found.
    The resource you are looking for might have been removed, had its name changed, or is temporarily unavailable.

  4. Thanks for letting us know. They changed the link and it has been updated in the story.

  5. Some positive comments. Dad’s RACF’s been great by notifying visiting hrs changes & offering ways of keeping in touch. Nurse Unit Mgr’s offered her ph for videoconferencing before their ordered iPads arrive, a personalised weekly update email, reg Facebook updates & flexible with Dr’s appts out of visiting hrs. We started at 1 visitor/day for 30 mins at either 10 – 11, or 11-12. Now it’s 2 visitors for up to 2 hours from 10-12! They ran low on h. sanitiser, so we’ve been told to wash hands instead. Not easy for both them & us, but they’re just looking out for all of us. Thank goodness for sensible, empathetic people!

  6. I think this code is a positive step forward, at least it gives clear guidelines for providers and visitors and also ensures families approach the facility first before the government complaints agency if they are not happy. Hopefully things can be sorted at a local level. No facility wants to be the next front page news or lose their beloved residents if this nasty virus takes hold, so I can see why everyone is being extra careful with who they let in and when, I do feel for both sides in all of this, not at all easy.

  7. We have finally negotiated an arrangement with the provider at Dad’s home, for 2 hours per day at lunch-time. It took 2 bites at the cherry, but we got there. Dad has deteriorated a bit, but at 97 and 6 months, we’ll never know how much of this might be from the exclusion. This will apply across the board, as there is no “Before” data to compare with. What is needed is funding for a major project, both quantitative and qualitative, comparing residents’ well-being in homes that did not shut down with those in homes who brought in total exclusion. Sadly, despite the Code, there are still homes that have not relaxed their exclusion at all, or who have made it so difficult that it’s traumatic for residents.

  8. I have not seen my mother for 2 months Until then I was visiting daily, as she was extremely suspicious, angry, confused and distressed. Within 2 month of arriving at the residential care facility she had fallen and broken an ankle and had another stroke, leaving her no longer able to walk, or do any self care including feeding herself. Neither the broken ankle or paralysed arm were identified by staff until I drew attention to them. Whenever I talk to staff they say she is fine, but I have no idea what that means. I have had three video visits. Her oft expressed fear was that her family would be kept from her, which of course has now happened.The arrangements are complete chaos, on one occasion I received a random call with a completely unfamiliar resident. The first time they rang with my mother she just screamed hysterically asking why I had suddenly stopped visiting. I suggested that the visits would just torment her, but they suddenly started up and I accept them now for fear that refusing them might be taken as a sign that I don’t care. She no longer screams, but she can’t hear me, so we can’t talk, and she just says ‘why isn’t she visiting me’ The staff say soon, but communications from the agency just talk about a ‘road map’ without giving any details. I find their patronising PR written communications incredibly distressing. A staff member thanked me for cooperating and I advised them that I am complying because I have no choice. There is a complete disconnect between the front line staff and the head office. I am concerned that they will offer only video visits, and if so, I will be pushing back, escalating my concerns as the access code suggests. This has been torment for both my mother and me. I am now terrified that she will die believing we have abandoned her.

  9. I too visited our mother almost every night after work,fed her dinner,gave her the time she needed to toilet and then changed and put her to bed. While the manager would argue that wasnt my job,I know it was appreciated by staff and I knew my mum wasnt left to sit and wait to go to bed or not be put on loo. Staff regardless of what manager says are at peak times short of time. We are still only given 2 x 30 mins per week. Mum has dementia and we are watching her disappear sooner with no stimulus. I am very cynical when it comes to Aged Care,at the heart of it,it is a business. We really dont know what goes on unless someone is there everyday regardless of what we are told. They take their directive from the CEO and we have to take it regardless of what the Government/Code says.

  10. Dear Annabel, Massie, Anne & so many others from last few months – my heart aches for you all. I have been trying to get my mom to hospital to have the wax in her ears extracted since January. Postponed the January as mom had a fall, postponed the March due to the lockdown. She now has an appointment on Tuesday, 19/5. This week I was referred to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (the Agency) to act on my behalf on both requests – increasing the visiting hrs & the hospital visit. The Agency contacted head office & they had positive response. The owners of my mom’s nursing home sent a letter today that they will NOT increase the half hr visits once a week Mon-Fri anytime soon & I been told they will NOT approve the hospital visit as it’s not urgent & have been asked to reschedule again. Dear powers that be, what’s the use of coming up with this code if nursing homes do not adhere to the new rules. What’s the use of speaking to any of your advocacy or peak bodies if they can’t enforce anything. Please please something has to be done!!! Thanks again for listening.

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