The revised Sector Code for Visiting in Aged Care Homes released today strikes the right balance between protecting against the risk of infection and ensuring older Australians are not left socially isolated.
Supported by aged care peaks and those representing older people and their families, the revised code reminds us that while older people, including those in residential aged care, are still at real risk of COVID-19 and other viruses, all older people in residential aged care are entitled to a visitor – even during lockdowns.
COTA Australia – the leading advocacy organisation for older Australians – Chief Executive Officer, Patricia Sparrow, said that while striking the right balance is difficult, it’s also crucial.
“We know that prolonged isolation causes irreversible harm. Having a clear code that clearly states that residents are always permitted to have at least one visitor, regardless of the COVID outbreak status, is incredibly important,” Ms Sparrow said.
“We need to ensure that the needs of older Australians are always front and centre. That includes ensuring their health is prioritised, both physically and mentally.
“The code provides clarity around how we can balance COVID precautions with the dignity and wellbeing of older Australians, including their often neglected mental health.”
OPAN CEO Craig Gear said that, of course, the best way to balance the risk of infection with the mental, physical and nutritional impacts of social isolation is prevention.
‘We know older people are at higher risk of complications from COVID, so it’s important that all eligible residents have access to a booster vaccination,’ said Mr Gear.
“We also know older people have been disproportionately affected by the previous waves of lockdowns. The aim is to balance the infection risk with the mental, physical, and nutritional impact of extended periods of social isolation.
“The Sector Code for Visiting in Aged Care Homes ensures older people have access to an essential visitor at all times.”
CEO of the Aged and Community Care Providers Association Tom Symondson said it’s vital we look after the health of older Australians, as well as their need for social interaction and time with family and friends.
“Australia is still learning how to live with COVID-19 and older Australians remain amongst some of the most vulnerable to the disease. Throughout the pandemic, aged care providers have strived to make sure older people are safe, but also ensuring family can still visit loved ones.
“We know that social isolation away from family is difficult and these new guidelines are about improving the lives of older Australians, while still protecting them.”
The revised Code has been developed by aged care consumer and provider organisations following extensive consultation with key stakeholders, including the general public, sector stakeholders, and health authorities.
You can see a copy of the code here: www.cota.org.au/agedcarevisitors
COTA Australia |Tamara Kotoyan | 0430 291 890 ; OPAN | Vicky Roach | 0412 720 025