Coronavirus COVID-19 & Your Loved Ones in Aged Care
© Danielle Robertson Consulting Pty Ltd t/as DR Care Solutions
Over the coming months I will be sending information via my blogs on coronavirus developments in Australia's aged care sector.
This information will be based on primary source information issued by authorities including the Australian government and World Health Organisation.
It is clear that now is the time for all Australians to take precautions to stop the spread of the virus.
Precautions including social distancing, hand washing, and cough and sneeze etiquette have been clearly outlined by the Australia Government through various channels.
Stay up to date with the Department of Health's latest information: https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert/what-you-need-to-know-about-coronavirus-covid-19#protect-yourself-and-others
Older Australians Most At Risk
What is also clear is that older Australians are most at risk.
The World Health Organisation advises that while "people of all ages can be infected by the new coronavirus, older people, and people with pre-existing medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease) appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus".
"Older Australians" - What is The Age Group?
When looking at the additional support being provided by the Australian Government, by way of tele-prescriptions and tele-health services, the reference age is 70 years.
Some Current Statistics
If we average the age of the five Australians who have died to date, it comes to 84 years.
This week, the Italian Institute of National Health reported the average age of the more than 2,500 people who have died from the virus in Italy is 79.5 years. I will add the note that 99% of these people suffered from a previous medical condition.
Loved Ones in Aged Care Facilities
On virtually every day of the past week, the Australian Government has issued new health directives for aged care facilities. This is understandable and commendable given the developing situation.
Many aged care facilities have acted in advance of those directives by going into complete lockdown this week, with security measures in place to enforce the lockdown.
The Australian Government has not yet enforced complete lockdowns. Earlier this week, it encouraged aged care facilities to limit the number of visitors from 16 March.
Two days later, a more detailed directive was issued limiting visitation to a maximum of two visitors at a time per day, with further conditions attached.
For details, refer to the Prime Minister's media release here:
What should bring some comfort to those with loved ones in residential aged care is the Australian Government Department of Health's release of the National Guidelines for the Prevention, Control and Public Health Management of COVID–19 Outbreaks in Residential Care Facilities in Australia.
Released on 13 March, this comprehensive and practical 48-page document provides residential aged care facilities with best practice information for the prevention and control of outbreaks.
Aged Care Facilities Will Still Be Taking New Admissions
The National Guidelines state that aged care residential facilities should continue to admit new residents.
Loved Ones in Palliative Care
The Australian Government's visitation restrictions to aged care facilities apply to palliative care residents.
However, yesterday the Prime Minister asked that palliative care facilities impose the restrictions on "a case by case basis, ensuring that the safety measures taken are compassionate".
Loved Ones Using In-Home Aged Care
The Australian Government Department of Health has not yet released a directive to in-home aged care providers and care recipients on the measures to be taken by in-home aged care workers.
The only information released to date is a two-hour webinar (https://www.health.gov.au/resources/webinars/webinar-on-in-home-and-community-aged-care-covid-19-preparedness) hosted by the Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care on 13 March. No doubt a framework similar to that for residential aged care will be released in due course.
In the meantime, the Prime Minister has announced that Australians over 70 years are able to:
- Order their PBS and RPBS prescriptions from home by calling their local community pharmacy, provided that the pharmacy offers home delivery ("tele-prescriptions").
- Conduct bulked-billed medical appointments with their doctor over the phone ("tele-health").
These services have been introduced to reduce the potential of exposure. Here I will note that currently in the Italian city of Bergamo in the Lombardy, 20% of family doctors have been infected by the coronavirus and sadly three family doctors in Italy have died to date.
My Advice If Your Loved One Is In An Aged Care Facility
As more residential aged care facilities go into lock down, make sure your loved one's facility has your contact details so that you can receive updates from them.
It is expected that facility staff resources will be stretched in the coming months. Be prepared for this and be willing to receive communications via email.
My Advice If Your Loved One Receives In-Home Care or Is Aged 70 Years or More
Take a look at the in-home care provider's website to understand what preventative measures are being taken in providing in-home care to your loved one. If there is no information on their website, email or call them.
Encourage your loved one to follow the precautions
(https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert/what-you-need-to-know-about-coronavirus-covid-19#protect-yourself-and-others) issued by the Australian Government, to avoid social gatherings (in my view, limit to no more than five people), keep their distance at those gatherings, and take up the grocery shopping offers of family, friends and neighbours.
I will keep you informed of any major developments in the aged care sector with respect to the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
If you need advice on aged care support, either in-home aged care or residential aged care, for your loved one, please reach out to me, Danielle Robertson at DR Care Solutions, for an initial discussion on how to set up the right care, support and assistance for your loved one, at the right time and in the right place.