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LOCKDOWNS  in Aged Care Homes 

22 Feb 2022

Are you being prevented from seeing your loved one in care due to a COVID-19 Outbreak or Exposure? Did you know a total lockdown is not the recommendation?

I attended a webinar this week where the topics of interest were lockdowns, isolation of residents, and restrictions on visiti​ng those residing in an aged care facility during a COVID-19 outbreak or exposure. The responses and information provided to questions on these matters were very enlightening and would be beneficial to those who regularly visit someone residing in an Aged Care facility.

The webinar was run by the Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN). In attendance were the CEO’s of OPAN and Council on the Ageing (COTA) who discussed the Industry Code for Visiting Residential Aged Care Homes. This industry code was revised in December 2021 to include a policy on Essential Visitors. The Essential Visitor access is also mentioned in the Managing Public Health Restrictions on Residential Aged Care Facilities – Interim Guidance document located on the health.gov.au website.

Two major questions are being asked by many:

  1. What does Essential Visitor mean? – An Essential visitor (Partner-in care) is defined as a person who regularly visits and has a close and continuing relationship with a resident residing in an Aged Care facility such as a family member, partner, friend, or representative. This person would be someone who provided aspects of regular routine care and companionship. Where there is no Partner – in care a Named Visitor can be nominated to visit.
  2. Can a facility prevent a person from visiting a family member, client (for carers and other health professionals), or friend during a COVID-19 outbreak or exposure? - The short answer is NO if you fall within the guidelines of an Essential Visitor. An Aged Care provider can advise their facility is in lockdown, however, this is not a favourable action by peak bodies such as COTA and OPAN, nor by the Department of Health. The severity of the outbreak will determine the guidelines on visiting.

There are three categories to an Outbreak/Exposure and the level of Outbreak/Exposure determines the precautions required for an Essential Visitor to enter an Aged Care Facility. Under the Industry Code, any resident residing in an Aged Care facility has the right to one visitor per day. It’s important to understand the three categories and the precautions and, or restrictions that come with these.

Green While there may be minor levels of COVID-19 within the community the government has declared the area low risk. For visits or excursions, no extra precautions are required.

Amber -The location of the Aged Care home or the visitor attending is from a location where the government has declared an area of concern. Risk assessments should be considered by the facility on re-entry after an excursion to assess and manage risk on return of the resident.

Red -The Aged Care home has an Outbreak of COVID-19 within the facility. At the present time the definition of an Outbreak is:

  1. A COVID-19 positive resident who was in the facility at the time of their infectious period and/or
  2. Two or more COVID-19 positive staff or visitors at the same time attended the facility 48 hours prior to any symptoms being evident or positive test result received if they were asymptomatic.

Excursions are more than likely not possible during an Outbreak unless for medical or compassionate reasons, where re-entry assessments should then be conducted to manage any potential risk upon return.

Depending on the number of people COVID-19 positive and the location of positive residents within a facility it may be required to limit the number of people within a facility for a short period of time. This could mean not all Essential Visitors can visit every day. However, the facility is encouraged by the government to implement these precautions for the shortest possible time and facilities should facilitate alternate communication avenues, such as video chats, phone calls during this time.

Essential Visitors (includes partners-in care and Named Visitors) may be required to undertake Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) training which will be conducted by the facilities IPC lead.

The health and wellbeing of the residents, visitors, and staff within an Aged Care Home is of the highest priority, making it extremely important to follow the guidelines and precautions written in the Industry Code and Interim Guidance document.

Some of the precautions that may be implemented by a facility are as follows:

  • Vaccination status check– double vaccinated for COVID-19 and the influenza vaccine
  • The wearing of full PPE (Personal Protective Equipment)– N95 or surgical mask, face shield or goggles, gowns, and gloves (provided by the facility)
  • Rapid Antigen Testing (provided by the facility), temperature checks, and questionnaires on your current health and recent movements before entering the facility
  • Areas of the facility restricted or closed such as cafes, laundries, and other communal areas
  • And more – the facility will be able to advise any additional precautions and restrictions at the time of visiting

We @ H.U.G.E.Today hope you have found this information useful. If you have any questions, are seeking more information, or want to share an experience, please feel free to contact us by clicking the button below  

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*The information provided above has been collected from several government and peak body online resources and is believed to be true and correct at the time of posting. This information is purely our interpretation of information in these resources that are available to the public and we encourage you to refer to these resources for any updates and accurate information. I

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