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Enabling aged care residents and their families to come together over the holidays

  • Media Release

14 December 2020

The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission is calling on all aged care providers to enable and support their residents to be visited safely by family members and friends – especially over the holiday period when we are all looking to reconnect with people who matter to us.

The Commissioner, Janet Anderson PSM, said it was very important for providers to take proactive steps to enable people in aged care to enjoy the company of their loved ones in person, given that restrictions on visitor access can lead to loneliness, anxiety and depression.

While the pandemic has not gone away, the risks of COVID-19 infection are now low when sensible precautions are taken. Ms Anderson has written to all aged care providers requesting that they focus on both ensuring best practice infection prevention and supporting the physical, social and emotional wellbeing of residents by ensuring they have regular access to family and friends.

The Commission has started a visitor access campaign this month, which will continue into 2021, to support the transition of the aged care sector into a COVID-normal operating environment. This campaign will provide resources and guidance for aged care consumers, their families and approved providers to manage safe visitor access.

Ms Anderson said: “Doing everything possible to ensure people receiving aged care are safe from the COVID-19 virus is vitally important. Of equal importance is supporting the physical, social and emotional wellbeing of residents in aged care facilities and ensuring they have regular access to family and friends all year round, and particularly at this time of year.

“Residents, families and the wider community expect that approved providers of residential aged care services are addressing both safety and access imperatives, and the Commission is looking for providers to demonstrate how they are reflecting this in their visitor arrangements.

“When monitoring and assessing providers in relation to the Aged Care Quality Standards, the Commission seeks evidence of how a service assesses the current risks of both COVID-19 and the impact of visitor restrictions on individual residents. The Commission expects that all approved providers will appreciate the risks to residents caused by isolation and ensure appropriate visitor access.

“Where visitor access risks are identified, the Commission will undertake unannounced visitor access spot checks. Further regulatory action may be taken to ensure that the provider is meeting their obligations under the Aged Care Quality Standards.”

The Commission’s visitor access campaign includes:

  • Residential service visitor access survey – a short survey will ask all residential aged care services to reflect on their current arrangements and inform the Commission of their planning and processes for safely managing visitor access in a COVID-normal world.
  • Visitor access case studies – case studies will provide real-life (de-identified) cases of complaints about visitor access and how they can be resolved to the satisfaction of residents, families and services.
  • Focused regulatory activities – the Commission’s ongoing regulatory program will have a focus on visitor access.
  • Best practice resources – the Commission will continue to update its website with information, resources and links about best practice visitor access.

Ms Anderson has communicated to aged care providers that to meet expectations about visitor access, all approved providers should, as a minimum, be familiar with and apply the following:

Public health directives from the relevant state or territory:

Industry Code for Visiting Residential Aged Care Homes during COVID-19

Outbreak management planning in aged care

Infection prevention and control leads

Partnerships in Care fact sheet

For support, the Older Persons Advocacy Network organisations can assist with a range of free Advocacy, Information and Education services. Call them on 1800 700 600.

If anyone has a concern about visitor access to an aged care service, complaints can be made via the Commission’s website or by calling 1800 951 822.

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