Recently we made the difficult but necessary decision to restrict visitors from accessing our aged care homes in order to ensure the safety of our elderly residents.
We are acutely aware of the impact these restrictions may be having on residents and their loved ones.
We also appreciate the uncertainty being felt by many, as all sectors of the community seek to understand and prepare for the short and long-term impacts of COVID-19.
To help offset some of this uncertainty, below we provide answers to some commonly asked questions from our aged care families and friends.
Why are all visitors restricted from entering UnitingSA’s aged care homes?
Due to the rapid spread of COVID-19 in SA and the known risk to elderly people, our aged care homes entered into a period of stringent access controls on 23 March 2020, for an initial period of two weeks (ending 6 April).
Although a difficult decision, restricting all visitors to our homes was a proactive step to help us protect the health and safety of your loved ones. It is also consistent with other major providers of residential aged care both within our state and across the nation.
Our efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 and keep residents safe, are directed by the Federal and State Governments, as well as our own risk assessments.
When will these visitor restrictions finish?
We will continue to monitor the changing COVID-19 environment and re-evaluate the need for stringent access controls. We will provide advice regarding this matter closer to 6 April, based on current conditions.
What about end-of-life care visits?
Our Directors of Nursing will continue to work alongside UnitingSA’s Palliative Care Nurse Practitioner to make decisions on a case-by-case basis regarding visits to residents at the end stages of life. This includes visits by children. Families are encouraged to contact their site Director of Nursing to discuss their individual circumstances.
How can I communicate with my loved one?
We are working hard, and as quickly as we can, behind the scenes to set up new communication channels to support ongoing regular contact.
Going forward, we will continue to explore the use of technology, including telephone calls, video calls, email and UnitingSA’s Facebook page to enable communication and share messages and photos. We will also endeavour to pass on any communication that you send us by email, including videos and photos.
We know that face-to-face contact is so important, and to that end we are working with our Directors of Nursing to organise ‘window contact points’ wherever possible. These contact points will enable you to visit and speak to your loved one in person, while maintaining a safe infection-free environment for them.
Can I opt out of using some communication channels?
If you do not wish to take part in all or particular communications, such as video calls or social media, please notify your site Director of Nursing by Friday 3 April 2020.
Can I send my loved one a letter or gift?
At this time, we are asking families and friends to refrain from sending letters, gifts and care packages to residents as it poses a risk of COVID-19 transmission. COVID-19 can survive on surfaces for an unknown period of time, potentially for a number of days.
While letters are not permitted, we encourage families to send an email to their loved ones, using the site’s main email address. This can be obtained by phoning the site’s reception. Staff will assist in relaying and responding to email messages.
Am I able to do my loved one’s laundry?
Family members and friends are no longer permitted to take their loved one’s laundry offsite due to the associated risk of COVID-19 transmission. All laundry must now be completed within the home’s on-site laundry facility. No charges are incurred for on-site laundry services.
My loved one has a cognitive impairment, how can I continue to support them?
Residents with a cognitive impairment will continue to be supported by our aged care teams. Staff are working alongside individual residents and their loved ones to find the most appropriate solution to maintaining communication and connection.
Can I take my loved one outside of the home?
Unfortunately it is not possible at this time for residents to temporarily leave our homes.
On 28 March 2020, new State Government legislation was introduced, prohibiting a resident from returning to their aged care home if they leave for a reason not relating to medical or dental treatment. This legislation aims to support aged care providers in maintaining a safe and infection-free environment for all residents.
What else is UnitingSA doing to stop the spread?
We have re-arranged our Dining Rooms to increase the space between residents in line with the Federal Government’s social distancing recommendations. Some facilities have also introduced two meal sittings in order to support the 1.5 metre distance requirement.
Our Activities Team is providing residents with one-on-one support, and developing new activities to help foster social and emotional wellbeing. Our chaplaincy service also continues to provide support to our residents.
Flu vaccination – important update
Please remember to have your flu vaccination before 1 May 2020 and to keep your certificate of proof, as this is a new Federal Government requirement for all of those entering an aged care home after this date.
Your feedback is important
Please contact your aged care home directly if you have any comments, suggestions or concerns.
If you are not satisfied with our actions you can also contact:
- Older Person’s Advocacy Network: 1800 237 981
- Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission: 1800 951 822
There are a number of places you can go to for further advice, information and resources, including:
- Australian Department of Health website
- UnitingSA’s COVID-19 webpage
- The 24/7 National Coronavirus Health Information Line: 1800 020 080 (If you require translating or interpreting services, call 131 450)
- South Australian Department of Health: 1300 232 272
If you have any questions about this information, please contact your aged care home directly.
Together we can stop the spread of COVID-19 and protect our residents and their loved ones.