After weeks of family and government criticism of draconian lockdowns at aged care homes, an industry code has been launched outlining residents' rights to receive visitors.
The 'Industry Code for Visiting Residential Aged Care Homes during COVID-19' has been released by consumer advocacy organisations and 13 aged care peak bodies representing most of the aged care facilities throughout Australia.
The code is described as creating a "nationally consistent approach that ensures residents can receive visitors while minimising the risk of spreading COVID-19". It was finalised after public consultation with both consumers and aged care providers.
According to the code, the wishes and preferences of residents will be at the centre of all decision making in relation to who visits them; and their choices will be sought and respected, unless the visitor is prohibited under state/territory directives.
Many aged care homes are asking visitors to use a booking system in order to manage the number of visitors in their facility at any one time. This also provides the opportunity for staff to clean designated visiting areas in between visits.
The code also says visits can occur in a variety of ways including using technology, window visits, courtyards and balconies. Where window visits or additional ways to connect are not effective for the resident (e.g. people living with dementia or sensory loss) the home will explore alternate approaches.
Homes may regulate the overall number of visitors in order to minimise the risk of the introduction of COVID-19 into a residential care home and visits are at occur in a manner consistent with infection prevention and control guidelines.
The code also includes a recommended complaints process which includes speaking to the faciliity manager, contacting the Older Persons Advoicacy Network (OPAN) 1800-700-600 for support and advocacy and making a complaint to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission 1800-951-822.
Among the organisations endorsing the code are: Aged & Community Services Australia, Aged Care Guild, Anglicare Australia, Baptist Care Australia, Catholic Health Australia, Leading Age Services Australia, UnitingCare Australia, Carers Australia, Council on the Ageing (COTA) Australia, Dementia Australia, Federation of Ethnic Communities Council of Australia, National Seniors Australia, Older Persons Advocacy Network.
The code will be reviewed in three weeks to ensure it is responding to current concerns