Special restrictions have been put in place by the Australian Government in consultation with health authorities and the World Health Organisation, which is continuing to provide updates via the government website.
Even with strict protocols currently in place, there are extra measures that Aged Care facilities around the country are taking to protect their residents and support them during times of isolation.
The Australian Government Advice
The most relevant information and advice provided by the Australian Government Department of Health can be found here: Coronavirus (COVID-19) advice for the health and aged care sector
You can also download the Australian Health Sector’s Emergency Response Plan for COVID-19 here. It delves into information for Families and Residents around the Coronavirus.
WHAT IS THE INDUSTRY DOING?
WEBSITE & COMMUNICATION
Ensure that there is clear communication around what measures your facility is taking to address the COVID-19 situation. The first place people visit is your website, so having a prominent banner or image on your home page with COVID-19 updates is important. This gives clarity and reassurance to staff, visitors and family and friends of residents around what measures your facilities are taking.
This can also be done via email communication or social media pages, as sharing frequent updates helps people stay informed and connected with what's happening on the inside.
(Allity Aged Care Home Page Update)
See an example above where Chief Executive Tracey Burton from Uniting Aged Care outlines what measures their sites are taking to protect the residents and staff.
STAFF & VISITATION
- Staff Screening - Ensuring at the beginning of every shift staff are screened with temperature checks, the completion of a mandatory questionnaire and demonstrated hand hygiene practices (Allity Aged Care)
- Additional Safety & Hygiene Training - Ongoing additional education around infection control and hand hygiene is being delivered to ensure all employees remain cognisant of the best practice standards. Regis Aged Care recently required over 9,000 staff nationally to attend an extra hand hygiene assessment training
- Monitoring stocks daily – Ensuring staff have enough personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks , gloves and sanitisers
- Compulsory Isolation - Staff and visitors who have returned from overseas in the last 14 days are not able to enter facilities, and must self-isolate at home for 14 days (Blue Aged Care)
- Restricting visitation – Limiting visitation hours in general, and the number of visits per resident to a maximum of two for less then one hour at a time (Blue Aged Care)
- Placing an importance on mental health - Ensuring employees are front of mind throughout these challenging times, as they work on the frontline to protect residents and clients. Giving them regular updates and wellness checks is vital (Regis Aged Care)
- Social distancing – Ensuring visitors adopt social distancing which means maintaining 1.5m from other staff, residents and visitors
Although important measures and changes are being implemented into the daily lives of residents it's important that the provision of physical distancing doesn't become social isolation. To support the health and social contact of residents, here are some examples from Regis Aged Care:
- Supporting consultations with health practitioners over a video or telephone call
- Providing extra technology such as iPads and Surface Go tablets, with tutorials on how to Facetime family members
- Including different exercise routines and activities for residents either inside the home or in the outdoor spaces
- Offering additional music, movies, games and conversations in safe physical environments
- Encouraging more gardening, music memories, puzzles, trivia, seated yoga
See Regis Aged Care above keeping residents better connected with the use of technological devices via Ipads and Tablets. It's important to assist the residents by facilitating facilitating FaceTime and video chats.
Regis Sandgate Musgrave residents have been enjoying their beautiful garden - planting fresh herbs and vegetables in the fresh air for the whole home to enjoy.
Some residents at Regis Lutwyche engaged in this fun activity to keep the mood upbeat, where residents and staff were asked to write ‘What makes you happy?’
FOOD AND PACKAGING
Everyone should practise good hygiene when preparing and handling food. Although there is no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 can be spread via food or food packaging, the NSW Government Department of Health states:
“Studies suggest that coronaviruses (including preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus) may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions (e.g. type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment).”
So, it’s vital that food safety standards for food preparation and handling are maintained in Aged Care facilities..
WHO has issued precautionary recommendations including advice on good hygiene practices during food handling and preparation, they include:
- Washing hands before handling food, and between handling raw and cooked foods
- Thorough cooking and proper handling of meat products
- Covering your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing
- Avoiding close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness, such as coughing and sneezing.
Regis Norwood Retirement Village took BBQ innovation to a new level – the team cooked up an extravagant BBQ and delivered the delicious food as takeaway packages to each of our residents’ homes
ONLINE TRAINING & RESOURCES AVAILABLE
A 30-minute online training module is now available: How to protect yourself and the people you are caring for from infection with COVID-19.
This training is for care workers across all health care settings – it covers the fundamentals of infection prevention and control for COVID-19, including:
- COVID-19 – what is it?
- Signs and symptoms.
- Keeping safe – protecting yourself and others.
FREE EDUCATION TOOL - ALTURA LEARNING
For a free online educational video on ‘COVID-19 and Aged Care,’ Altura Learning provided this resource for staff working in residential aged care, home care or retirement living.
ONLINE SOCIAL GROUPS
Other online social groups or clubs, similar to the Feros Care's Virtual Social Centre can provide a much-needed connection to people who are remote, lonely or looking for entertainment.
EXTRA RESOURCES – FACT SHEETS
Health and Aged Care Workers
If you are in any doubt about the correct course of action to take, and to keep up with the latest advice, please refer to the Government Health Department in your state: