The Prime Minister went on national television last Tuesday to tell aged care facilities in Australia to go easy on their lockdown measures. He said the recommendation from the national cabinet was for a maximum of two visits per resident per day in the resident’s room. He was concerned for the welfare and health of residents in aged care if they were not receiving regular visits from their families.
Several things have come to my notice as an Aged Care Placement Consultant about the situation. Aged Care Facilities seem to vary from one to another with how they are dealing with COVID-19, as mentioned in my last blog. When it comes to visitors some are in strict lockdown, others are following the government recommendations. Staff are busier than ever, as they don’t have the help of volunteers and other support services; for example, they are having to conduct all the activities to keep residents occupied.
General Secretary of the NSW Nurses and Midwives Associations, Brett Holmes, said the government needed to provide additional staff to aged care facilities so they could screen visitors before allowing them in. I agree with this and can understand the difficulties aged care homes will face in monitoring visitors, I’m aware that even at the moment where families are allowed to visit their loved ones in palliative care, in some facilities it is only for 15 minutes, yet when asked to leave they ask for another 5 minutes, then another 5 – this all takes up staff time, adding an extra burden. There will be further calls on staff time when the directive starting in May that visitors must have the up to date flu immunisation comes into effect, as this will need policing.
Brett Holmes went on to say “There are qualified nurses out there looking for work and if the Commonwealth Government wants to open up the aged care facilities, then that should be done in the safest possible way.That should also mean of course the additional resources of PPE to allow that screening to be undertaken in the same way that our public health system is responding to this risk of people from outside the facility bringing in the COVID-19.”
I have noticed when that some aged care facilities are contacting families and asking them if they are content with the precautions the facility is taking and, to my knowledge, most families are generally understanding why the facilities have taken those precautions and that it is for the protection of residents.
Last week I placed a gentleman in an aged care facility and his wife was upset that she couldn’t visit him over the weekend. As I have said before, each facility is dealing with the situation differently. The same goes for retirement villages. I am helping a client to find a suitable retirement village and one place we were interested in would not allow a site visit but also won’t allow a resident to move in unless they have seen the facility in person. Another retirement village will allow a site visit, but only one person at a time.
I am finding that only people in an emergency are now seeking aged care accommodation as they don’t want to self isolate within the facility for 14 days once they move in, they don’t like the idea of no visitors and don’t want to spend the money and make a monumental move to a home site-unseen. Trying times indeed!