More than two-thirds of Australians support aged care homes limiting visitors to keep residents safe from COVID-19, according to a survey commissioned by a provider peak body.

Aged and Community Services Australia released the results an online poll conducted by Essential Research on Wednesday.

It found that 69 per cent of the 1,093 Australians surveyed support aged care homes preventing visitors except for compassionate reasons and video calls.

One in 10 respondents opposed visitor bans, according to the survey conducted between 30 April and 3 May.

ACSA CEO Patricia Sparrow said while Australia could be proud of its management of COVID-19, it still had to stay alert about aged care.

Patricia Sparrow

“At the top of our minds is the need to balance prevention of outbreaks with emotional care and compassion.

“Mental and spiritual health is just as important, and providers know better than anyone that getting that balance right is very difficult but very important,” Ms Sparrow said.

She said providers’ first priority was to protect residents, and many decided to prevent visitors because of the increased potential exposure to COVID-19.

Ms Sparrow said the results of this poll would be a valuable input to the process underway with the government and consumer and provider peak organisations to negotiate a consistent, clear and agreeable visitor access code.

A public consultation on a draft visitor code announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday closes on Thursday afternoon (read more here).

It followed earlier directions by the Prime Minister and Minister for Aged Care Richard Colbeck for providers to resume visitor access to the level recommended by National Cabinet and the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee and subsequent provider pushback (read more here).

Ms Sparrow said aged care stakeholders were working hard to negotiate consistent guidelines that will prevent the deathly outbreaks seen in aged care homes overseas.

“The UK estimates around 20 per cent of their homes have outbreaks. In Belgium, Italy, Spain, Norway, Canada and more – aged care accounts for more than 50 per cent of all coronavirus deaths,” Ms Sparrow said.

She said visitors were largely understanding of the restrictions and she asked for continued  understanding.

Residents back restrictions

Many providers including Belvedere Aged Care in Mebourne have responded to visitor bans by providing face-to-face access via video calls and window meetings.

Belvedere Aged Care’s Director of Nursing Carmel Drobnik said residents of the 60-bed  facility were not stuck in their rooms.

“With restrictions in place, our residents can move freely around their home and continue to do the things they love.

“Visitations have temporarily been altered but the feedback I have received from many families is that our non-contact visits allow them the opportunity to see their loved ones, feel reassured and maintain a sense of connection,” Ms Drobnik said.

Belvedere is also among the many providers who report that residents also largely support the bans.

As is Lifeview Victoria, where it said a survey of residents found 80 per cent supported the actions taken to protect them and staff.

Many providers have reported that residents supported the bans through surveys conducted in-house.

Among them is Lifeview Victoria, who said a survey of residents found 80 per cent supported the actions taken to protect them and staff.

Several Lifeview residents recorded short video messages to tell the Prime Minister they were safe, well and not locked away.

Among them is Lorraine who said she was happy to not have visitors enter the home because the staff were doing a magnificent job and they didn’t want any germs brought in.

In her video (below), she called on the Prime Minister to wait until it was certain that COVID-19 was beaten.

View other residents’ videos on Lifeview’s YouTube channel.

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