Skip to main content

Aged Care residences – COVID-19 updates

There is a lot of work being done across our Aged Care residences to ensure we are taking all necessary precautions and putting plans in place to maintain our residents, their loved ones and our employee’s wellbeing. 

We acknowledge how important maintaining connection is to everyone's wellbeing and we are doing as much as possible to limit the disruption to usual routines for our residents, whilst enhancing their level of protection.

Please continue to monitor this site for changes to our residences.

Important updates

Stage 3 restrictions remain in place across Australia to stop the spread of COVID-19. These restrictions include a ‘stay at home’ order only permitting people to leave home to shop for food and other necessary goods and services, access medical services or provide caregiving, attend work or education where you can’t do those things from home, and exercise. In addition, gatherings have been limited to no more than 2 people, and social distancing practices have become commonplace in our everyday lives.

Under the current state government directives in NSW and Victoria, access to residential aged care facilities is limited to people who meet the following criteria:

  • an employee or contractor of the home,
  • a person who is providing goods, services or providing health, medical or pharmaceutical services,
  • a person who is providing care and support visits,
  • a person who is present for the purpose of end of life support for a resident, or
  • any person who is required to be present on the premises for the purposes of emergency management or law enforcement.

Of those people who are eligible to enter residential aged care facilities, if any of the following applies to them, then the state government directives prohibit them from entering:

  • during the 14 days immediately before the proposed entry, the person arrived in Australia from a place outside Australia,
  • during the 14 days immediately before the proposed entry, the person had known contact with a person who has a confirmed case of COVID-19,
  • the person has a temperature higher than 37.5 degrees or symptoms of acute respiratory infection,
  • the person does not have an up-to-date vaccination against influenza, if the vaccination is available to the person, or
  • the person is aged under 16 years (other than for the purposes of providing end-of-life support for a resident of the home).

Enabling the safe return of visitors

Australian Unity has had stronger restrictions in place at our homes, to continue to mitigate the risk of transmission from the community and to protect the health and wellbeing of all residents and employees.

While we must continue to be vigilant, thankfully the rate of transmission of COVID-19 has slowed in the community and we can now look to increase face to face access for visitors and return some services for residents from Monday, 4 May 2020.

From Friday, 1 May 2020, hairdressing services will recommence with the salon set up to facilitate social distancing. We know this service has been greatly missed by residents and will be warmly welcomed back.

To enable residents to meet with their loved ones, while ensuring residents are still able to move freely within their home, we will be implementing strict visitor guidelines. Our residences are home to many residents and as such, we need to carefully manage how many visitors are coming into the home at any one time to enable us to limit the risk of exposure to infection including COVID-19 as much as possible.

How visits will be different

In order for you to visit safely, you will need to meet certain screening requirements and we will need evidence of certain aspects.

To support safe access for visitors, we will initially be re-opening for visits on an appointment basis.

It is a government requirement that any person entering must have an up-to-date vaccination against influenza, unless medically exempt. We will require you bring proof that you have received the vaccination, or proof that you have a medical exemption, when you come to visit. 

All visitors will also need to have their temperature taken on entry, will be asked about symptoms of acute respiratory infection, and will need to complete a visitor declaration form. This same process applies to all employees and contractors.

Under the state government directives, visits are limited to two people per resident per day and for a maximum of two hours. Visits must be held in the resident’s room, unless you have permission from us to access another area of the home. Visitors are also reminded to practice good hand hygiene and social distancing throughout their visit.

While we are very pleased to be able to offer limited visitation access, for the safety of all residents, we are still recommending that if you don’t absolutely have to visit, please consider whether this is the right time to do so. You’re encouraged to stay connected to residents in other ways. To support this, we’ve:

  • increased the bandwidth for wifi,
  • waived telephone call charges, and
  • facilitated virtual visits via telephone or video calls.

We would like to thank you again for your ongoing support during this difficult time.

You may have seen the Prime Minister’s address on Tuesday 21 April 2020, in which he discussed current state government restrictions on visitors to aged care facilities.  

Australian Unity has heightened our restrictions to ensure the protection of all residents and employees at each of our homes. We will be maintaining the current visitor restrictions until at least 4 May 2020.  

The threat of COVID-19 remains very high to vulnerable people in the community, and by keeping visitors who enter the home to a minimum, we believe we’re able to provide the safest possible environment for residents and our employees who care for them. 

During the heightened restrictions, daily routines are being maintained and residents can move freely throughout the home without having to manage risks associated with having visitors present who may be strangers to our residents. For many of our residents who have cognition issues, their ability to practice social distancing poses a particular risk. If visitors are provided access into all areas of the home (which would be the case if they need to walk through the home to get to a particular resident’s room), it reduces this ability for free movement.

While we’re currently preparing and putting in place additional protocols to enable us to roll back our restrictions and allow the safe return of visitors to our homes, we don’t believe we can do that just yet. In the meantime, you’re encouraged to stay connected to your loved one in other ways. We’ve waived telephone call charges and are continuing facilitate virtual visits via telephone or video calls, including via our new app, CheckedIn Care. 

Leading Age Services Australia (LASA), the national peak body representing a significant number of aged care providers including Australian Unity, continues to advocate for a precautionary approach to visitor restrictions in residential aged care, on a home-by-home basis, with the protection of residents and staff from COVID-19 a critical priority. Click here to read more.

The vulnerability of residents in aged care to COVID-19 remains high despite the positive impact that Level 3 restrictions and social distancing has had on COVID-19 transmissions within Australia.

Australian Unity believes it is essential that we continue to maintain heightened restrictions until at least 4 May 2020 to ensure the continued protection of residents and employees.

A key element of our Better Together philosophy is connection. To support connectedness between you and your loved one during this time, we have waived telephone call charges since 1 March 2020. We are pleased to also be introducing two new initiatives: virtual visits through the CheckedIn Care app and the Better Together challenge.

For more information on Better Together challenge view the ‘How you can help our residents stay connected’ tab.

The risk of exposure to COVID-19 remains extremely high for our residents. For that reason, we have made the decision to maintain the current Australian Unity visitor restrictions for a further 14 days, until at least 20 April 2020.

These heightened restrictions were originally put in place based on representative feedback and to reduce the known risk of community transmission. We understand the implications of this decision, and the ongoing distress this may cause, however we must continue to do all we can to protect residents, as well as our employees.

Despite the restrictions, we do welcome families dropping Easter cards, gifts and eggs to our teams at Reception and we will ensure their timely delivery to residents.

We also encourage exploring other methods of maintaining connection with your loved ones. To better enable this, we are waiving telephone charges, backdated to 1 March 2020, to support residents to communicate with family and friends more frequently. Families have been utilising phone calls, Skype or Facetime, letters, postcards or pictures.

Our team are facilitating these activities, which have so far been very much enjoyed by everyone.

In the last week, residents across our homes have celebrated birthdays and anniversaries, enjoyed a pen pal program with some local kindergartens and were treated to some special meals. We will continue to share photographs of these special events with families.

Based on feedback we have received, and the heightened community restrictions announced by both the Australian and State Governments over the weekend we will now be restricting all visitors from entering our Aged Care sites unless they have a direct connection to essential service delivery.

These restrictions will commence at 8pm on Monday 23 March and will be reviewed in two weeks’ time.

Exceptions may be made for loved ones of those residents with special needs (i.e. complex dementia) and those who are palliating.

Residents within the home will continue to live their lives as normally as possible. However, non-essential services such as cafés, hairdressers and beauticians will also close temporarily, and lifestyle activities will be revised to smaller group or one-to-one activities to allow for appropriate social distancing.

We understand this decision will be very difficult and upsetting for our residents and their loved ones. However, due to the rapid spread of COVID-19 in the community, we need to take all possible measures to protect those who are most vulnerable.

On 18 March, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced new measures for protecting our most vulnerable people. This announcement included increased site restrictions to Aged Care residences, including:

No access will be permitted to people who:

  • have returned from overseas in the last 14 days
  • have been in contact with a person who has a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the last 14 days
  • are currently experiencing fever or symptoms of acute respiratory infection (e.g. cough, sore throat, runny nose, shortness of breath)
  • after 1 May 2020, no access will be granted to people who have not been vaccinated this year for influenza.

Visits:

  • are limited to a maximum of two people (family members, close friends or professional service providers) visiting at one time per day for each resident
  • must be short in duration, maintaining social distancing practices (1.5 metres)
  • must be held in the resident’s room or outdoors, not in common areas.

There will also be:

  • no large gatherings or social entertainment within the residence
  • no school groups of any size allowed to visit
  • restrictions that prevent children aged 16 or under from visiting, unless exceptional circumstances apply (for example, if their loved one is palliative).

We're all feeling the impact of social isolation, especially our youngest and oldest. Our youngins can find themselves bored at home, while our oldest are without visitors.

If you have a spare moment, why not send through a few words or pictures to lift the spirits of residents and those that care for them? The Better Together challenge aims to connect our residents and carers with the broader community, and to remind them that they are not alone during this difficult time.

Our Better Together challenge invites you and your kids to draw, take pictures of baking achievements, write stories and letters to share with our residents and those caring for them.

Resources:

We've pulled together a selection of resources to get you started:

Keep checking back here as we add more resources.

What you need to do:

  1. Download the resources, or do your own thing
  2. Scan or take a picture of your results
  3. Send them to bettertogether@australianunity.com.au and be sure to tell us if you have a specific home you want this to get to.

Other ways to get involved

Feel free to share the Better Together challenge with your:

  • child's school or kindergarten;
  • local sporting club;
  • neighbours or friends; and
  • grandkids, nieces, nephews or other extended family.

You can also express your interest to join our pen pal program – email us at bettertogether@australianunity.com.au

Better Together is about how we each play our part to make the whole stronger. Although we may be separated by distance we can get through this together. Together is better!


By participating in the Better Together challenge and emailing your letters, stories or pictures to us, you agree that we may give them to residents and carers, display them at our residential aged care sites, and post them on our websites and social media pages for the purpose of promoting the Better Together challenge. If you send us pictures of other people, you agree you have obtained the relevant person's consent, or you (as the parent or guardian of any other child whose photo is provided) consent to provide the images to us. We won't post any images online that identify your child. If you don't want your content to be posted online, you can let us know at the time you send the content to bettertogether@australianunity.com.au.



What does this mean for Australian Unity Aged Care Residences?


What do these new restrictions mean?

We request that all visitors follow our site entry procedure. This procedure has been put in place to ensure:

  • We have full visibility on who is accessing the site and when
  • We minimise the number people visiting a resident at any one time
  • Hand hygiene practices are being followed prior to entering areas where residents are present
  • Visitor contact information and declarations are completed through the ‘Tell Us About You’ forms.

What other precautions and steps are we taking? 

  • We are following the Communicable Diseases Network Australia (CDNA) National Guidelines for the Prevention, Control and Public Health Management of COVID-19 Outbreaks in Residential Care Facilities in Australia issued by the Commonwealth Government on 13 March 2020, following the infectious disease management protocols and taking actions to control the current situation with onsite and head office teams coordinating our planning and management
  • We have increased our cleaning schedule—each aged care residence will have completed an initial deep clean by Wednesday 25 March, including every resident room and all common areas using specialist equipment. Hospital-grade products that eliminate pathogens are being used daily in all regular cleaning including mopping, this includes using Steri7 wipes on all touchpoints such as handrails, which remains active for up to 7 days
  • Additional training on infection control for all employees has been conducted and will continue throughout this COVID-19 public health situation.
  • We are exercising social distancing practices including limiting group gatherings—cancelling group events and activities—and keeping a distance between people
  • We have ceased all non-critical contractor works on site, ceased corporate and school visits, implemented additional visitor requirements (outlined above) and limited access to a single sign-in point, with all visitors required to enter via reception
  • We continue to closely monitor government advice and are taking all actions as required.

What you can do to help us

  • Knowing the symptoms: these include fever, cough, shortness of breath and sore throat
  • Focusing on good hand hygiene: Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, before and after eating, and after going to the bathroom
  • Be vaccinated against influenza: Having the flu vaccine helps protect yourself and those around you especially those who are too sick, or too young to be vaccinated as well as other people including, people over 65 years of age and pregnant women. The flu vaccine won’t protect against COVID-19, however it may help to reduce the severity and spread of seasonal influenza, which can lower a person’s immunity and make them more susceptible to other illnesses.
  • If you are unwell, we ask that you avoid contact with others and do not visit our residence until you are better.

Resources

Prefer to talk? Phone us
for a discussion.
We will respond within 48 hours.
Receive answers to frequently asked questions.