The need to keep elderly aged care residents safe from infection from COVID-19 while still taking care of their psychological and emotional wellbeing is a delicate balancing act, says Errol Curran, director of aged care services at Bushland Health Group in Taree.
On Tuesday, March 17 the federal government imposed a limit of one visit per day with a maximum of two people in that visit, per resident, at aged care residential facilities.
"We've gone stronger than that, with one visitor per resident per day, and it can only be with the same person every day," Mr Curran says.
In addition, Bushland Health Group have restricted residents from going out into public areas.
"If they go with a family member to their home or out for a drive, well and good but we discourage totally family members taking residents into public areas, let's say for a coffee," Mr Curran says.
Bushland has also cancelled outside entertainers and services from visiting.
Mr Curran says he fully expects that Bushland's homes will go into full lockdown at some stage. He says it is a matter of when, not if.
We really are agonising at the moment. We would probably want to lock down, but we know for the residents it's for their wellbeing that they have a visitor at least.Errol Curran, Bushland Health Group
For now, the organisation is taking advice from the Department of Health's chief medical officer and from the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, and they are continually reviewing the situation.
"It's a delicate balancing act because visitors are good for residents, but in the end we've got to try and protect them.
"We really are agonising at the moment. We would probably want to lock down, but we know for the residents it's for their wellbeing that they have a visitor at least," Mr Curran says.
In the event of Bushland's aged care homes going into lockdown, the organisation is looking at other venues for residents to be able to see their loved ones, such as communicating by Skype or Facetime.
Mr Curran has heard through industry contacts that some aged care providers have gone one step further and gone into complete lockdown, not letting any visitors into their residential facilities at all. The Guardian also reported this.
One of the providers said to have locked down completely is Estia Health, which has a residential facility in Taree. However the Manning River Times could not confirm that the Taree home had gone into lockdown, as they would not return our calls.
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