Residential Aged Care: COVID-19 Pandemic Response

Last updated 29 April 2020

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Are Carinity’s aged care homes open to visitors?

On Wednesday 22 April, the government released coronavirus heat mapping data for the first time, enabling us to get a more accurate picture of where cases are relative to our services. Given this and the continuing fall in cases we are now confident to relax some of the restrictions on visits to residents at our aged care homes. Notwithstanding any serious changes in case numbers, our intention is to open our homes to visitors again by Tuesday 5 May. However, we would caution you against doing so wherever possible. Please see FAQ below ‘Should I visit my relative in aged care?’

Visitors will need to support us in keeping residents and staff safe by abiding by our hygiene and social distancing precautions. Further details of visiting hours and these precautions will be published on this page and communicated directly to residents and their advocates in the coming days.

Will I be able to visit my relative in care on Mother’s Day?

Yes; however, visitors will need to support us in keeping residents and staff safe by abiding by our hygiene and social distancing precautions. Further details of visiting hours and other arrangements for Mother’s Day will be published on this page prior to opening so you can plan ahead.

Should I visit my relative in aged care?

There is no cure for COVID-19 and the outcome for people who are infected, particularly those who are elderly and who have pre-existing health conditions, is often fatal. Carinity is doing everything we can to maintain hygiene and social distancing measures to minimise the risk of COVID-19 infections in all of our homes; however, the more people who interact with our residents and touch surfaces within our homes, the greater the risk that coronavirus will find its way inside. Of concern is the fact that many people who have coronavirus may be asymptomatic, and hence unaware that they are capable of spreading the virus.

Because of these factors we encourage you to avoid visiting in person as much as possible, and instead use the phone and other video-based applications that are available to allow you to stay in touch with your loved one (please refer FAQ below ‘How can residents and their family and friends stay connected while visits are restricted?’). Our aged care homes are home to many elderly people that we have limited ability to keep separate. Unfortunately, a visit from one person to one resident may have serious consequences for other residents who live there if coronavirus enters the facility.

For more on this, please refer to the Australian Government Department of Health’s information sheet for older Australians, their family and friends about how to protect older Australians from the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). We have quoted the relevant section for you below:  

Can I still have contact with friends and family?

The Australian Government has asked that everyone stay at home and limit their contact with others unless it is for essential purposes. This is particularly important for older people. The new restrictions are in place to protect all Australians and especially those at a higher risk from COVID-19. These restrictions are difficult for many of us, but are essential to controlling the impact of the virus. Even though you may not be able to see your family and friends in person, it is really important that you stay in touch with them. Phone calls, video chats through programs like FaceTime and Skype, and emails are a great way to stay connected.

Some aged care providers are asking all visitors not to visit facilities in order to protect the older people living in the facility. In these cases, there is usually a process the provider has in place for exceptions, such as when a loved one is very unwell. Call the facility to understand what processes are in place. If you have concerns with the facility’s actions, contact the Older Person’s Advocacy Network on 1800 700 600 or the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission on 1800 951 822. If you are not able to visit, consider other ways to stay in touch, including phone and video calls, writing, or filming short videos to share.

Source: https://www.health.gov.au/resources/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-older-australians

How can residents and their family and friends stay connected while visits are restricted?

Carinity is committed to keeping residents connected with their family and friends during the pandemic. While in person visits are restricted to support hygiene and social distancing efforts, we will be offering residents and families a variety of telephone and video-based communication alternatives. Please contact your facility for further information.

I’m not vaccinated against influenza. Why can’t I enter Carinity aged care homes?

The Government has mandated that from 1 May anyone entering a residential aged care (RAC) home must be vaccinated against influenza and must provide proof of this to staff. This is part of the current health directive to support coronavirus (COVID-19) containment efforts. Carinity is defining a RAC site as a RAC building or shared space i.e. courtyard, pergola etc where residents would come into contact with unvaccinated visitors, not the whole grounds.

Are hairdressing services still available at Carinity aged care homes?

Hairdressing  at our homes has been suspended until the end of April. We will reassess the health risk at that time to see if the service can be reinstated.

On Tue 21 April the Prime Minister and Chief Health Officer said aged care homes shouldn’t be restricting visitors. What is Carinity’s response to this?

Carinity is committed to providing the best possible care for our residents. We have been closely monitoring the status of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic since February and have adapted our service delivery in ways to minimise the risk of any of our residents contracting the virus to preserve lives.

At the end of March we made the difficult decision to suspend visitor access until further notice given increasing concerns about community transmission in Queensland, escalating government actions to contain the spread of the virus, and the dire consequences of COVID-19 outbreaks reported in aged care facilities in NSW that had led to multiple resident deaths.

Although restricting visitor access was a difficult decision to make, we were acting on the best available data at the time provided by government and public health authorities and this data showed a rapid rise in cases which was extremely concerning. Our aim in suspending visits has always been to keep residents safe and preserve lives given the high risk to life posed by the COVID-19 virus to older Australians.

Some of the comments made by politicians and advising medical officers about aged care providers locking residents in their rooms have understandably raised concerns for relatives of residents in care. We can reassure you this has never happened at any of Carinity’s homes; our residents are continuing to receive the same high level of care and social interaction with each other and staff; and requests for face-to-face visits from family members have been managed on a case-by-case basis on compassionate grounds.

It is important to recognise that government sets minimum standards for providing care in residential aged care settings. We hold ourselves to a higher duty of care and will always seek a higher standard as evidenced by our introduction of mandatory temperature testing of all visitors which is something governments are only now considering. For information about some of the challenges the aged care sector is facing with respect to managing the pandemic please read the latest statement by Leading Age Services Australia.

We will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation very carefully and will advise you of further changes if they are needed.

Will Carinity suspend visits in the future?

We are constantly reviewing the progression of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic throughout the community to determine the risk that visits pose to our residents. If we believe the risk to our residents is low visits will be unrestricted, if the risk is moderate we will restrict visits and if we believe the risk is high we will suspend visits for a period of time. You will be advised if this occurs and we will open again as soon as the risk falls to acceptable levels.