COVID-19 support line opens for seniors
A free dedicated support line is now available to address the mental health of senior Australians, their families and carers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Established by the federal government in conjunction with the Council on the Ageing Australia, National Seniors Australia, the Older Persons Advocacy Network and Dementia Australia, the phone line will be staffed with advisers who can offer practical help and advice.
Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians Richard Colbeck said talking to someone who understands and listens was an important outlet for anybody struggling to cope as the spread of the virus creates additional pressure on individuals and communities.
“Each of these long-standing organisations is well regarded, passionate and very experienced in supporting Senior Australians and their loved ones,” Minister Colbeck said.
Minister Colbeck said the COVID-19 phone line is a great initiative that reinforces the message of support for those in isolation, particularly if contact with family or friends is limited.
“I urge people to call this support line if they are feeling lonely or distressed, troubled or confused, or need to talk to someone about their concerns caring for a vulnerable person during the COVID-19 outbreak,” he said.
The establishment of the support line has been followed by continued discussion of aged-care visitation restrictions.
Minister Colbeck said while providers shared a responsibility to protect the wellbeing of Senior Australians in care, total lockdowns of facilities were not supported by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) or the National Cabinet.
“Contact with family and friends during this difficult time can be a vital link to ensure the health and wellbeing of Senior Australians in care,” he said.
“The AHPPC is concerned that in some cases this level of contact is not being maintained. It is not okay that residents should remain completely cut off from loved ones or their carers. This is particularly important for those residents with dementia.”
But Minister Colbeck said the call to work on the AHPPC recommendations was not a green light to go back to pre-COVID visitation routines.
“We all need to remain vigilant in managing the protection of Senior Australians,” he said. “The advice to National Cabinet has not changed.”
The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (ACQSC) has issued guidance to providers reminding them to be conscious of their responsibility to ensure the health of residents and required quality of care levels.
“This guidance draws on what has already been learned from experiences with recent COVID-19 outbreaks,” Minister Colbeck said.
The Commission’s Chief Clinical Advisor has also offered advice around strategies to minimise the risk of transmission through staff and visitor screening.
“It is important to ensure those people in residential aged-care facilities remain safe, and appropriate screening is carried out for anybody entering for work or to visit a loved one,” he said.
“These guidelines apply to all visitors and staff.”
ACQSC advice on visitor restrictions is available here.
Call the COVID-19 support line on 1800 171 866.
The support line will operate Monday to Friday, except public holidays, from 8.30 am to 6 pm.
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