Insight

Protecting our older Australians from COVID-19

John Picot John Picot

Aged care facilities are well versed in infection control. With so many vulnerable people in care, this is something the sector has had to be disciplined about for decades and they are continually improving.

It is unsurprising then, that when the first case of COVID-19 was identified in Australia that the aged care sector was prepared and moved into action.

As the virus is particularly dangerous for the elderly and those with existing respiratory issues, the task ahead is very much around prevention and mitigation.

The $2.4b healthcare stimulus announced by the Government last week will help support aged care – with additional training around infection control, and importantly, more funding for supplies, including protective gear, for those on the front line.

Supply chain, not virus control, the key issue for aged care

One of the largest risks at the moment for aged care facilities would be in its supply chain – with the majority of their cleaning and sanitary supplies coming from places like China. While they are finding alternatives, they also have to protect what they have. We have heard of at least one instance of a supply closet completely cleared out, leaving many residents without basic hygiene products. It’s a key indicator of how society is responding to this virus – the panic buying can also extend to theft – and continuity and security of supplies must be a priority for any organisation that cares for frail aged people.

Social distancing in practice

Our older Australians – those in and out of care – are at the highest risk of contracting COVID-19, and of experiencing complications, such as pneumonia, which make the virus so lethal. We all have a role to play in keeping our elderly safe and well.

We’ve seen calls from Governments around the world to not visit aged care homes or elderly relatives if you’re feeling unwell. To practice social distancing where possible – which also means that grandma and grandpa might not be able to babysit while the parents work. During this time, human connection is still important. We know that social isolation can have a detrimental impact on health and wellbeing, particularly for elderly people. Technology – phone calls and face-time – will be important to check in on loved ones.

For those older Australians living at home and capably caring for themselves, there are different challenges. Like ensuring access to food and household products. We have all seen the images and footage of supermarket shelves completely cleared of goods. This is putting a strain on all Australians, with older Australians in particular feeling like they can’t compete and often missing out.

In a positive move, recent announcements by both major supermarket operators introducing initiatives such as a dedicated hour for senior and disabled Australians to come in and do their weekly shop without having to battle the hordes of people stocking up on toilet paper, pasta and tinned foods. This will help protect them from coming into contact with the virus, as well as provide an equal opportunity to get their groceries before they are sold out.

This is a time of extreme stress for our community. We can all do our part to flatten the curve.

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