By Esha Oberoi, founder and CEO of Afea Care Services
There are now 17 nursing homes across Australia that have had nurses or residents diagnosed with COVID-19.
We know that people over the age of 80 years and those with chronic diseases are the most vulnerable. For over 80’s, approximately 15% of those infected have died. That’s 3 in 20.
We need to be doing absolutely everything we can to protect our most vulnerable at this time.
For elderly persons considering the transition into an aged care home at this time, I would strongly recommend looking at in-home care options until the pandemic passes. Once an illness is caught by one patient within in a residence, the chances of others being infected is very high, as we’ve tragically seen with this virus.
Not everyone in an aged care home needs to be there. Some can manage with daily visits from a carer (support worker). A single carer is undoubtedly safer than a facility full of nurses, allied health professionals and visitors.
Businesses like supermarkets have fortunately been working to protect our most vulnerable through initiatives like a special shopping hour and online deliveries. Neighbours have been coming together to look out for each other and help with essential tasks that may require leaving the house. But everyone needs to do their part to protect those in need.
When people refuse to take this seriously and continue socialising in groups against the advice of the government, they are thinking of themselves only and the disruptions to their own life – not the very real threat their actions pose to those most at risk.
One of the biggest challenges for the aged care sector now will also be managing loneliness in the months ahead, which is already a major issue. Day trips for routine socialisation in groups have been cancelled, so we need to look to technology and one-on-one carers to provide emotional support and socialisation during this time.
Like every healthcare business, this is a challenging period for us, but we are looking at ways we can help our clients and carers stay connected in the comfort and safety of their homes. Our employees are our family and we are doing everything in our power to maintain the jobs of our 500+ staff, while keeping them connected with the aged and disability care clients they have been carefully matched with based on factors like languages spoken, personal interests and so on.
We’ve introduced a number of new health and safety measures, as well as offering support from afar in the form of video-enabled connection with our care clients.
Here are 4 ways we can all support the elderly through this pandemic:
1. Stay home
The more of us that remain in our homes instead of out unnecessarily, the faster we can contain this virus and return to normality.
2. Offer your neighbours help – from a distance
Many aged and disability care clients need help to do grocery shopping and other tasks. Reach out to your neighbours and see if anyone needs help.
3. Have an emergency plan in place for if main support person falls ill
This should detail medications, tasks requiring support, emergency contact numbers and so on. If the client is with Afea we will have this detailed in our notes for a handover.
4. Ensure any support people are taking additional safety measures
Our carers will all receive an influenza vaccine, complete an online learning module on safe hygiene specific to coronavirus, wear additional personal protective equipment and will not be permitted to work if they exhibit any cold or flu like symptoms or have come into contact with anyone returning from overseas. Check that your carers are doing the same.