Australia's peak body for aged care advocacy support, the Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN) has welcomed the careful opening of residential aged care homes.
The Health Department released Interim Guidance allowing for greater flexibility in balancing the need to reduce transmission of COVID-19 against the impact of social isolation on residents.
Under the changes, each aged care resident can be visited by one essential visitor at all times, including during management of COVID-19 outbreak or exposure.
OPAN CEO Craig Gear said the easing of restrictions was a win for older people and their families who want to see a careful opening of facilities occur.
"The real risks created by COVID need to be assessed against the broader impacts of extended restrictions on the overall health and wellbeing of older people in aged care," Mr Gear said.
"There are many known risks and impacts on older people when they face sustained social isolation.
"These impacts can manifest physically, affecting their strength, bone and muscle mass, and independent function. And they can also result in anxiety, loneliness, depression and cognitive decline.
"We have been calling for careful changes to visitation rules for many months now - and we welcome these adjustments which will no doubt improve the wellbeing of older people."
Recently an older person contacted OPAN because the aged care home her husband lived in had limiting visiting hours.
With the permission of the two older people, an aged care advocate contacted the aged care home manager and informed them that the new visitation guidelines meant everyone was entitled to at least one essential visitor.
With some negotiation, the wife can now visit her husband daily, which has significantly improved the wellbeing of the couple.
The Interim Guidance outlined a number of changes to visitation guidelines and facility restrictions when there is a COVID-19 exposure or outbreak. There are a number of requirements the essential visitors must adhere to.
Call OPAN on 1800-700-600 if you have issues receiving visitors in your aged care home.
For more information on the changes, visit the Health Department website in your state or territory.
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