Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA) has released new polling showing that 69 per cent of Australians surveyed support aged care homes limiting visitors in order to protect older Australians from COVID-19, while they say only 10 per cent oppose visitor bans.
This comes the week after the sector and the government appeared to have come to an agreement for aged care conduct during the pandemic.
“Australia can be proud of our management of COVID-19 but we can’t get blasé about aged care because this is where our most vulnerable people live,” said ACSA chief executive 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.
“The first priority of providers is to protect the older people in our care. Many providers have made difficult decisions to prevent visitors because visitors increase the chance of exposure to COVID-19.”
Sparrow said the government and peak organisations are still negotiating their way to a clearer vision of aged care access and visitation rights, and that the polling will be useful to that end.
“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.
“In most cases, visitors are understanding of the restrictions and we continue to ask for that understanding. We are also appealing to all Australians to do everything possible to protect older people and to reach out to support them by picking up the phone,” Sparrow said.
Residents try to be heard
One voice that has been seldom heard throughout this crisis is that of the residents themselves.
Residents of Lifeview aged care homes in Victoria have been given that opportunity and have made a series of videos aimed at PM Scott Morrison, to tell him they are in control and don’t want visitors coming into their homes during the pandemic.
They point to the Charter of Aged Care Rights which states that they have the right to have control over and make choices about their care, personal and social life, including where the choices involve personal risk. And their choice is to stay isolated from harm.
Resident Michael, says he suffers from emphysema and asthma, and is worried if visitors were allowed to enter the home they may bring the virus with them, and it will kill him.
Resident Joan asks why the Prime Minister is allowing visitors into her home but not allowing people to visit his house. Resident Anne says she agrees with restrictions on visitors and it will only take one person with the virus to put the whole home at risk.
When approached by Aged Care Insite, Lifeview management would not be drawn as to whether this was the stance of management also. They said this was about what the residents wanted.
A written statement given to Aged Care Insite from Lifeview chief executive Madeline Gall said: “The residents have strong opinions on many things but recent comments by the Prime Minister in relation to opening their homes to visitors, and the assumption all aged care residents are currently locked down with nothing to do, really upset some of them.
“They were looking for a way to have their voices heard, to let the Prime Minister know they were doing well and that it should be their decision as to who enters their home, and when this happens.
“Residents have told us they currently feel safe but are worried if visitors start re-entering the homes they may bring the virus with them. Lifeview purely facilitated a way for residents to get their message out there.”Do you have an idea for a story?
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