The Council on the Ageing (COTA) has developed a draft industry code addressing visitation restrictions at aged care homes during disease outbreaks.

Key points:

  • The code has been endorsed by the Australian Health Principal Protection Committee
  • Twelve aged care and consumer peak bodies developed the code
  • It aims to protect residents during infectious outbreaks while maintaining visitation

The code was developed in consultation with aged care peak bodies and residents and their families in response to the pandemic, which led to lockdowns in many facilities.

Maria Berry, the consumer advisor from the Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN), said the pandemic had caused “heartbreak” for residents and their families.

“When that interaction has been cut off, the impact for older people has been phenomenal,” she said.

“A lot of the time it’s not only about the mental health or wellbeing of that person, but also the visitor or partner coming in — they’re also very much a part of that care.”

‘Dignity and respect’

The code, which aims to ensure continued visitation while minimising the risk of disease spreading, has been endorsed by the Australian Health Principal Protection Committee.

“It’s an agreement that’s been put together during the period of COVID,” Ms Berry said.

The code recommends visitors be vaccinated, but includes ways to accommodate those who are not, including outdoor and infection-controlled areas.

It also suggests residents have access to at least one visitor at all times.

COTA chief executive Ian Yates acknowledged the importance of lockdowns, but said the code was essential.

“This industry code outlines how aged care providers can respond to COVID-19 outbreaks with dignity and respect, and in accordance with the most recent health advice,” he said.

‘Irreversible harm’

Throughout the pandemic, there have been examples of aged care facilities banning all visitors in an attempt to keep COVID out.

“This has caused great distress for older Australians and their families and caused irreversible harm to many residents, which no one wants to see repeated,” Mr Yates said.

But the approaches taken by individual facilities often differ, and Ms Berry says the code will bring unity across the board.

“We’ve got to look at rights the rights of older people and how important it is at that stage of life,” she said.

“It’s written down — it’s an agreement and it’s something we can all follow and work with together.”

The draft code will be reviewed to address any issues and ensure concerns are responded to.

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‘We can’t cut people off’: Draft code aims to ensure aged care visits can continue in lockdown
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