LAST UPDATED: As at 29 April 2020
The Older Person’s COVID-19 Support Line provides advice, support, referrals and connection for Older Australians. You can call the Support line on 1800 171 866. Or, if you would prefer to speak with COTA Australia directly (or just want a chat) call us on 1300 COTA AU (1300 268 228).
The Older Person’s COVID-19 Support Line is supported by funding from the Australian Government.
- I want trustworthy information on the virus. Where should I go?
- FACTSHEET for older Australians
- FACTSHEETS and RESOURCES from official sources
- Can I still pay using cash?
- NEW: Banking and Debit Cards
- I don’t have a bankcard. How can I pay without cash?
- When to see a doctor
- What about normal/routine healthcare?
- Do I need a flu vaccination
- Information on elective surgery
- Visiting a dentist
- Can I go out in public?
- What do the restrictions on private and public gatherings mean for me?
- Does the virus stay on surfaces?
- Should I wear a mask in public?
- Is it safe to receive parcels or letters in the mail?
- Can I visit friends and family in residential aged care?
- I am no longer able to see my loved one in aged care – what can I do?
- What about end of life/palliative care?
- Dementia and COVID-19
- Mental health and COVID-19
- Pets and COVID-19
- Can I get help if I can’t buy things I need at my local shops?
- Priority Assistance delivery
- Special supermarket opening hours
- I am under financial stress due to COVID-19. What should I do?
- I have tickets to an upcoming event. What should I do next?
- I have an upcoming trip planned. Can I still travel?
- I received an email/sms/phone call about COVID-19 from someone I don’t trust. Is it a scam?
- What is COTA Australia doing?
- How do I contact my State or Territory COTA?
FACTSHEET for older Australians
Download an information Factsheet for older Australians, their family and friends about how to protect older Australians from the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) here: https://www.health.gov.au/resources/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-older-australians
Information on COVID-19
Australia is experiencing an outbreak of COVID-19. This virus has spread quickly across the world. In Australia, we have been able to take steps to slow the rate of infection. To continue this trend we all need to work together to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
COVID-19 can cause respiratory infections, ranging from the common cold to more serious diseases. Older Australians (people age 60+), especially those with pre-existing medical conditions, and people with compromised immune systems, are among those at risk of the more serious symptoms of Coronavirus. This includes:
- covering your coughs and sneezes with your elbow or a tissue
- disposing of tissues immediately they are used, into a dedicated waste bin and washing your hands
- washing your hands often with soap and water, including before and after eating and after going to the toilet, and when you have been out to shops or other places
- using alcohol-based hand sanitisers, where available
- cleaning and disinfecting surfaces you have touched
- where possible, stay 1.5 metres away from other people – an example of “social distancing”
- if you are sick, avoiding contact with others.
Even if you are feeling well it is important to take steps to prevent the spread of this virus. Good hygiene, and taking care when interacting with other people, are the best defences for you and your family against COVID-19.
The spread of COVID-19 and Australia’s response is evolving. We will update this website as more information becomes available. The information on this page is based on the latest advice from the Australian Government, and from other authoritative sources when there is no advice from the Australian Government.
Where to go for trustworthy information about the virus
For the latest advice, information and resources, go to the Australian Government website. Go to www.health.gov.au.
The Department of Health website is the best place to go for accurate information on:
- Preventing the disease;
- What to do if you think you might have COVID-19;
- What to do if you are worried about getting prescription medicine
- Understanding more about the symptoms of the virus
COTA Australia has been working with the Government, and with the media, to make sure that people are getting clear and consistent information. This has been challenging, as there is a lot of misinformation, both on social media and mass media.
For accurate information on COVID-19, please rely on information from the Australian Government and your state or territory health department.
FACTSHEETS and other RESOURCES from official sources
The Australian Government has developed the following fact sheets:
- Fact Sheet for older Australians: https://www.health.gov.au/resources/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-older-australians
- Fact sheet on restricted visits to residential aged care facilities: https://www.health.gov.au/resources/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-families-and-residents-on-restricted-visits-to-residential-aged-care-facilities
- Identify the symptoms:
- Advice on public gatherings and visits:
- Limits on dispensing of medicines:
- Pharmacy deliveries to COVID- affected and vulnerable people:
- Factsheet for health care and residential aged care workers here: https://www.health.gov.au/resources/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-health-care-and-residential-care-workers
The Australian Department of Health have also produced a range of videos on COVID-19, including this one for older Australians:
More videos, podcasts and posters are available here: https://www.health.gov.au/resources/collections/coronavirus-covid-19-campaign-resources
State and Territory Government resources
Many state and territory governments have also developed a number of helpful tools and information. A selection of helpful ones is available here:
- Tips for older people: https://www.ageingdisabilitycommission.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/776381/Covid19-tips-for-vulnerable-people_ageing-disability-commission.pdf
Find out more about restrictions in your state or territory by visiting:
- Australian Capital Territory: ACT Government Health
- New South Wales: NSW Government Health
- Northern Territory: Northern Territory Government
- Queensland: Queensland government health and wellbeing
- South Australia: Government of South Australia SA Health
- Tasmania: Tasmanian Government Department of Health
- Victoria: Victoria State Government Health and Human Services
- Western Australia: Government of Western Australia Department of Health
Other reliable resources
You may also find useful resources on the HealthDirect website. Go to: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/coronavirus
There is also a National Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080. It operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you require translating or interpreting services, call 131 450.
The phone number of your state or territory public health agency is available at www.health.gov.au/state-territory-contacts.
Can I still pay using cash?
Many stores are now limiting the use of cash in order to protect cashiers from the spread of disease. Some stores, particularly smaller retailers are now only accepting card-only payments.
The best advice available is that “It is very unlikely you can get COVID-19 from money, cash or bank cards. However, make sure you follow proper hand hygiene and wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitisers after handling money. Try using “tap and go” or “phone pay” options where possible.” Source: SA Health
Most grocery stores should have at least one register that takes cash upon request. Please speak to the store manager if you do not have a bank card to pay for your goods.
If there are no registers taking cash at all, please let us know so we can follow up with the store either 02 6154 9740 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
NEW: Banking and debit cards
Australian’s banks have recognised that with lots of branches closed, and many retailers refusing to take cash, Older Australians who rely on cash transactions are facing difficulty banking. To help, they are issuing debit cards to anyone who does not have one. These cards are not active and will need to be activated by calling the bank before they can be used. They are not a credit card, and once activated, will only provide access to money in the customer’s account.
More information can be found by calling your bank or visiting:
I don’t have a bankcard. How can I pay without cash?
We understand that this can be a problem if you don’t have a bank card to be able to make “tap and go” payments. If you do not have a bank card, we suggest you contact your bank to urgently request one.
We are working with the banks and regulators to encourage banks to issue their customers with a bank-issued card as soon as possible, to help throughout this time. This is the preferred type of card as it enjoys a range of protections that other pre-loaded gift cards do not.
If however you are unable to obtain a bank-issued card and need a non-cash temporary solution you can purchase a VISA or Mastercard gift card from a larger retailer who may still be accepting cash. Some cards are one-off, others are reloadable, so you may wish to consider what type best suits your circumstances. Some of the commonly available cards from larger retailers include:
When to see a doctor
Feeling unwell does not mean you must be tested for COVID-19. Most people displaying symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat or fatigue may be suffering from a cold, flu, allergies or other respiratory illness – not COVID-19. However, if you develop symptoms within 14 days of last contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case, and/or you have just returned to Australia, you should seek medical attention.
Your doctor will advise if you need to get tested. This decision will be based on criteria which are available here: https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert/what-you-need-to-know-about-coronavirus-covid-19#testing
Testing has been recently expanded to include:
- Health care workers and aged care workers with fever or acute respiratory infections; and
- people living in high risk settings (including residential aged care) where there are two or more people have respiratory infections.
- People with severe pneumonia, where there isn’t a clear cause (called a ‘suspect case’)
You may wish to check your symptoms using healthdirect’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Symptom Checker. The symptom checker is available here: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/symptom-checker/tool/basic-details.
You can also call the National Coronavirus Helpline for information and advice about COVID-19. The number is 1800 020 080. If you require translating or interpreting services, call 131 450.
What about normal/routine healthcare?
Visiting a GP or regular specialist
If you are unwell with another illness, or are receiving routine healthcare (such as vaccinations, or routine tests), your medical centre likely has some strategies in place to prevent the spread of disease. This can include:
- Implementing distancing measures in doctors waiting rooms (such as spacing chairs 1.5m apart)
- Delivering care via videolink (see telehealth)
- Requiring visitors to use hand sanitiser upon arrival
- Requiring anyone with a fever or flu-like symptoms to contact the GP office before visiting
Medicines and repeat prescriptions
For information on medicines and repeat prescriptions during COVID-19, click here: https://www.health.gov.au/ministers/the-hon-greg-hunt-mp/media/ensuring-continued-access-to-medicines-during-the-covid-19-pandemic
Telehealth is the provision of health services via teleconference. Using telehealth means that you can have a consultation with your GP, psychologist, allied health practitioner and others via a video application (like Facetime or Skype). Using telehealth can be a great way to ensure social distancing, and minimise travel to/from your health appointment.
This is particularly useful for people who have simple requests, such as a repeat prescription for their medication, or for routine chronic disease management. It can also be used for discussing acute illness or injury, but your doctor may decide they need to see you in person depending on the type of treatment or test that is required.
From 13 March 2020 to 30 September 2020, telehealth has been expanded so that everyone with a Medicare card is eligible for telehealth services. Providers are also required to bulk bill for the provision of telehealth to the following groups:
- Commonwealth concession card holders;
- children under 16 years of age; and
- patients who are more vulnerable to COVID-19 (including people over the age of 70, people who are immunocomprimised and people who are being treated for a chronic health condition).
More information on this is available here: https://www.health.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/2020/04/covid-19-national-health-plan-primary-care-package-mbs-telehealth-services-and-increased-practice-incentive-payments-covid-19-national-health-plan-primary-care-package-mbs-telehealth-services-and-increased-practice-incenti_0.pdf
If you are interested in using telehealth for your next medical appointment, please contact the provider/GPs office directly to discuss this option.
Do I need a Flu vaccination?
There is no immunisation for COVID-19. However, people with COVID-19 are prone to secondary infections, including becoming infected with influenza and pneumococcal. In 2020, the influenza vaccination has been released early. This is to prevent infection of both COVID-19 and influenza at the same time. It will also reduce pressure on the health system.
The influenza vaccine is available free for particular groups, including those age 65 and over, under the National Immunisation Program schedule. More information about this can be found here: https://www.health.gov.au/health-topics/immunisation/immunisation-throughout-life/national-immunisation-program-schedule
COTA Australia is encouraging everyone who is able to the influenza vaccine to do so.
Having an up-to-date flu vaccine is a requirement if you intend to visit a residential aged care facility.
From 25 March 2020, all non urgent elective surgery has been suspended. This applies to both public and private health systems. This is to free up capacity in the health system to deal with COVID-19. It also protects both the medical staff and patients from any further risk of transmission.
There are exceptions for Category 1 and some exceptional Category 2 surgeries. Your medical practitioner should let you know what category your surgery has been placed into. The categories are as follows:
- Category 1 – Needing treatment within 30 days. Has the potential to deteriorate quickly to the point where the patient’s situation may become an emergency
- Category 2 – Needing treatment within 90 days. The condition causes pain, dysfunction or disability. Unlikely to deteriorate quickly and unlikely to become an emergency
- Category 3 – Needing treatment at some point in the next year. Their condition causes pain, dysfunction or disability. Unlikely to deteriorate quickly.
If you have questions about your surgery, or the category, please discuss this directly with your medical practitioner.
We understand that this temporary suspension of elective surgeries can be frustrating. Many Category 2 and Category 3 surgeries are still important for relieving pain and improving quality of life. It can also be frustrating for those who have waited long periods of time to get to the top of an elective surgery waiting list only to have their surgeries postponed indefinitely. Unfortunately, this change is necessary to ensure our health system can cope with the demands on our health system brought about by COVID-19.
Visiting a dentist
Dental practices are now at level 3 restrictions, which means there are restrictions on the type of treatments that can be provided (such as those that use aerosals). Importantly, all routine examinations and treatments should be postponed.
It is still possible to receive emergency dental care. Emergency dental may include facial swelling, uncontrolled bleeding or dental injury. If you are unsure about whether your condition is considered urgent, please contact your dentist.
If you are on the waiting list for public dental, you will not lose your place on the list.
If you had already started treatment (such as having a temporary crown put in place), talk directly to your dental practitioner to see whether your treatment can continue at this time.
Can I go out in public?
For the most up-to-date information on this question, please visit here: https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert
On 29 March, the National Cabinet announced a limit on both indoor and outdoor gatherings to two persons only. There are however some clear exemptions to this rule:
- People in the same household, or members of a single family unit
- Funerals – a maximum of 10 people
- Weddings – a maximum of 5 people
National Cabinet decided that each State and Territory may choose to mandate and/or enforce this requirement, or vary it. Essentially, for most day-to-day activities in most States and Territories you should only be socialising with members of your household and/or family unit, plus no more than one other person at a time. There are some differences between States/Territories and SA and NT are enforcing a 10 person rule rather than 2 persons, but under 10 there must be 4m2 space per person. Details for all States and Territories is in the section “What do the restrictions on public and private gatherings mean for me?” which is further on below. You should check with each State/Territory website as restrictions do change.
In addition, the National Cabinet issued strong advice for older Australians. The advice is that you should stay home and self isolate if you:
- Are over 70 years of age;
- Are over 60 years of age and have existing health conditions or comorbidities;
- Are an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Australian, over the age of 50, who have existing health conditions or comorbidities.
Self-isolating means that you stay at home. Consider home delivery of groceries, medicines and other essentials (more information on getting groceries is available here). If you must leave your home, you should limit contact with others as much as possible.
You can go beyond your home for the purposes of essential shopping, medical appointments, compassionate reasons, going to work if necessary, getting fresh air or walking the dog or getting necessary exercise, but you should limit contact with others as much as possible. You can be accompanied by one family member, friend or support person.
It is important to maintain a routine, to exercise in the home (including your garden if you have one), and outside if safe from contact with others, and to take steps to reduce the feelings of loneliness and boredom.
Australia has enacted federal biosecurity protocols, and States and Territories have declared states of emergency. This means there are additional, enforceable restrictions for certain groups of people:
- You have COVID-19
- You have been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19
- You have arrived from overseas.
If you are in these categories, the State/Territory health department will be in contact with you. You will be required to nominate an address and cannot leave the property. The State/Territory health department will support you to ensure you have any food or medicines you may need. There will be compliance spot-checks to ensure that you are at your nominated address.
The borders are now closed between a number of States and Territories. If you have permission from the State/Territory Government to cross a closed border, you may also be required to self-isolate. If you are travelling interstate, please check the website of the state or territory you are travelling to for the most up-to-date information.
If you are not required to self-isolate
If you are not required to self-isolate, and you are feeling well, it is fine to go out in public. However, you should not gather in groups of more than two people, and in a number of States and Territories you are prohibited from doing so at risk of very serious fines.
When you go out in public, it is very important that you practice social distancing, and good personal hygiene.
It is permitted to use public transport – including buses, trains, trams and ferries. This is considered ‘essential travel’. However, as an older person if you have an alternative it would be good to use that.
It is also fine to do daily activities such as going for a walk outdoors, exercising and walking the dog. Indeed, continuing to exercise and spend time outdoors has positive mental and physical health benefits. Spending time enjoying the outdoors can help to reduce some of the stress or boredom of spending too much time in one place.
What do the restrictions on public and private gatherings mean for me?
On 29 March, National Cabinet agreed to limit non-essential gatherings to no more than two people. This applies to indoor, outdoor and private gatherings including your own home.
This means that you should not have more than one friend visit you in your home for a cup of tea, or join you for a walk in the park. In a number of States and Territories this is mandatory and will be enforced with legal penalties.
States and Territories will be enforcing this rule, with on-the-spot fines or other penalties.
Exemptions exist for:
- The people that you live with in one household;
- Members of one family unit visiting in each home;
- Work or study, where it cannot be done remotely;
- Funerals (a maximum of 10 people); and
- Weddings (a maximum of 5 people).
Work includes homecare workers and disability support workers. If your service requires more than one support worker, your service will be unaffected by this new rule.
It is up to the States and Territories to put these guidelines into law. The laws are different in each state and territory, and will attract different sorts of penalties – from on-the-spot fines to jail time.
The laws are changing rapidly, so we recommend checking your State or Territory Government website for the most up to date information. COTA Australia has prepared a general guide, although you should go to your state and territory website to understand any specific exemptions or points of clarification.
NSW: NSW is enforcing the two-person gathering rule, except in a few select cases (referred to as ‘reasonable excuses’ in the law). NSW will be enforcing the following law: https://www.legislation.nsw.gov.au/_emergency/Public%20Health%20(COVID-19%20Restrictions%20on%20Gathering%20and%20Movement)%20Order%202020.pdf
ACT: ACT allows no more than 2 visitors at a premises, and is enforcing a two-person rule in outdoor spaces. More information can be found here: https://www.covid19.act.gov.au/protecting-yourself-and-others/groups-and-gatherings
QLD: Queensland is enforcing the two-person rule. The following law is now in effect: https://www.health.qld.gov.au/system-governance/legislation/cho-public-health-directions-under-expanded-public-health-act-powers/home-confinement-movement-gathering-direction
WA: The state intends to enforce the two-person limit on gatherings but legislation is yet to pass through Parliament. For updates, check here: https://healthywa.wa.gov.au/Articles/A_E/Coronavirus
NT: Northern Territory has prohibited gatherings of more than 10 people (not 2). Gatherings of less than 10 people are banned if they do not meet the requirement of a minimum of 4 square metres per person. More information about gatherings can be found here: https://coronavirus.nt.gov.au/community-advice/gatherings
SA: South Australia has prohibited gatherings of more than 10 people (not 2). Gatherings of less than 10 people are banned if they do not meet the requirement of a minimum of 4 square metres per person. More information on this can be found here: https://www.covid-19.sa.gov.au/emergency-declarations/gatherings
VIC: Victoria has issued the following Frequently Asked Questions about the state’s movement restrictions: https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/coronavirus-stay-home-directions-frequently-asked-questions
TAS: Tasmania has issued the following Frequently Asked Questions about the State’s movement restrictions: https://www.coronavirus.tas.gov.au/families-community/gatherings/gatherings-faqs
COTA Australia recommends checking your State or Territory Health Department website regularly for updated movement restrictions.
Does the virus stay on surfaces?
Yes. The virus is spread through tiny droplets, that are released when a person coughs or sneezes. The virus can be spread through touching contaminated objects or surfaces (like doorknobs or tables), and then touching your mouth, eyes or face. Fortunately, common household disinfectants can kill the virus. Its important that shared or communal objects are cleaned regularly. Always use proper hand hygiene, washing hands regularly and avoiding touching your mouth, eyes or face.
Researchers are still determining how long COVID-19 can survive on surfaces. The Australian Government has not yet released advice on how long COVID-19 can survive on surfaces. You may wish to consider the advice from NSW Health:
“According to the World Health Organization, it is not certain how long the virus that causes COVID-19 survives on surfaces, but it seems to behave like other coronaviruses. Studies suggest that coronaviruses (including preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus) may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions (e.g. type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment).”
The NSW health advice is available here: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/alerts/Pages/coronavirus-faqs.aspx#1-4
Is it safe to receive parcels or letters in the mail?
Yes, it is safe to receive packages and regular mail. From experience with other coronaviruses, we know that these types of viruses don’t survive long on letters or parcels. However, you should all be careful and make sure you are washing our hands frequently.
Source: SA Health
Should I wear a mask in public?
If you are well, you do not need to wear a mask. Masks are unlikely to stop the disease from spreading to you. However, if you are sick, masks can stop you from passing your infection on to others.
However, the following groups are required to wear masks:
- Healthcare workers who have close contact with sick people
- Those with a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19
- those who are required to isolate because they have returned from overseas, or have been in close contact with a confirmed case of coronavirus.
A factsheet on masks can be found here: https://www.health.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/2020/04/coronavirus-covid-19-information-on-the-use-of-surgical-masks_0.pdf
Additional information on masks can also be found here: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/coronavirus-covid-19-how-to-avoid-infection-faqs#mask
If you are a healthcare worker, there is additional information on Personal Protective Equipment that can be found here: https://www.health.gov.au/resources/collections/coronavirus-covid-19-resources-for-health-professionals-including-aged-care-providers-pathology-providers-and-healthcare-managers#personal-protective-equipment-ppe
Can I visit friends and family in residential aged care?
It is important to take reasonable steps to protect residents, visitors and staff. There are special measures in place to stop the spread of the virus through residential aged care facilities. The Australian Government has developed a fact sheet on these special measures (see below).
A chat over the phone, video call or email – rather than visits in person – is a good precaution and could help stop the spread of COVID-19.
However, we understand that you may still wish to visit loved ones in person, especially if you have been doing so very frequently and assisting with care, feeding and support. If you are visiting a facility, you are likely to need to change the way you do things. A fact sheet is available here: https://www.health.gov.au/resources/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-families-and-residents-on-restricted-visits-to-residential-aged-care-facilities
There is also a fact sheet available to assist residential aged care facilities to understand the precautions necessary to stop the spread of COVID-19. It is available here: https://www.health.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/2020/03/coronavirus-covid-19-advice-for-retirement-villages.pdf
I’m no longer able to see my loved one in aged care. What can I do?
Some aged care providers have closed their facilities to all visitors. This is a difficult decision, made to protect all older people living in the facility.
We understand that this is very difficult for families. If visiting in person is not possible, consider a chat over the phone, video call, letter, postcard or email.
COTA is calling on all aged care facilities to enforce their preventative lockdowns with compassion and respect for families and residents. This includes encouraging them to facilitate safe access for families during end-of-life situations, palliative care plans, and where family provide additional ‘care and support’ for residents, especially those with dementia, and/or assistance with feeding.
What about end of life/palliative care?
Visiting a friend or family member facing the end of life is difficult but important. We understand that it is an emotional time. We know that you will want to visit your loved one and may wish to bring other friends and family with you. The Prime Minister has given palliative care as a specific example of an exception to the general rules – with full safety and hygiene precautions in place of course.
There can be other exceptions. Each residential aged care provider will be making their own arrangements for visitors. It’s up to the facility to find the right balance of care and compassion, and protecting other residents. Facilities are required to continue to uphold all the Aged Care Standards. Please contact the facility before you plan to visit, so that arrangements can be made.
If you are unhappy with the response from your facility you may contact the Older Persons Advocacy Network on 1800 700 600 or make a complaint to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission on 1800 951 822.
Dementia and COVID-19
Having a daily routine is helpful for people with dementia. The COVID-19 outbreak has meant that many people’s daily routine has had to change. To avoid the spread of COVID-19, many scheduled activities have been cancelled or disrupted. Dementia Australia have developed a number of fact sheets on dementia and COVID-19, available below:
- COVID-19 Tips for people living with dementia: https://www.dementia.org.au/files/helpsheets/DA_COVID19_Helpsheet_04_PLWD-v2.pdf
- COVID 19 Tips for carers, families and friends of people living with dementia: https://www.dementia.org.au/files/helpsheets/DA_COVID19_Helpsheet_01_carers_family_friends_PLWD_FA-v2.pdf
- COVID-19 Tips for residential care providers: https://www.dementia.org.au/files/helpsheets/DA_COVID19_Helpsheet_02_residential_care_providers_FA-v2.pdf
- COVID-19 Tips for home care providers: https://www.dementia.org.au/files/helpsheets/DA_COVID19_Helpsheet_04_PLWD-v2.pdf
You may also wish to call the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500 if you have more questions about dementia and COVID-19.
Mental health and COVID-19
Many people are feeling anxious, distressed and concerned around the COVID-19 outbreak. It is important to ask for help if you need it.
Take proactive steps to help you to cope during the difficult times. These steps may include:
- Stay connected with friends and family (consider a phone call or video call). Check in regularly with loved ones, and let people know if you are feeling lonely.
- Get trusted information on Coronavirus. Misinformation can make us feel anxious, or cause unnecessary stress and worry.
- Limit how much time you spend watching or reading the news. It’s no secret that watching the news can make us feel stressed and depressed right now. It’s important to keep informed as the virus progresses, but if it’s becoming overwhelming, it might be time to turn the news off for a few hours.
- Look after your physical health too, by getting fresh air and exercise, and watching what you eat.
- Put a structure in your day. Having a regular routine can help you feel more in control of your day, help you get essential tasks done, and schedule time for keeping in contact with friends or family.
- Seek professional help when you need it. This may mean seeking information online, or calling a helpline to talk about your concerns.
Its ok if you are struggling. These are difficult times. Help is out there if you need it (see Helplines below). Check in with your friends and family. Look after yourself.
The Australian Government has announced that it is establishing a COVID-19 Mental Health Support Service, which will provide free counselling by mental health professionals. This is in response to the growing demand for mental health support as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. It will be offered by Beyond Blue, and more information will be available soon.
The following helplines are currently available:
- Lifeline: 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention services. Call 13 11 14
- BeyondBlue offers short term counselling and referrals by phone. Call 1300 224 636.
- Carers Australia: Short-term counselling psychological support services for carers and their families. Call 1800 242 636
- 1800Respect: Confidential information, counselling and support service open 24 hours to support people impacted by domestic or family violence and abuse. Call 1800 737 732
- Mensline: A telephone and online support, information and referral service, helping men to deal with relationship problems in a practical and effective way. Call 1300 789 978
- National Debt Helpline: free and confidential advice from professional financial counsellors. The hotline is open from 9.30 am to 4.30 pm, Monday to Friday. 1800 007 007
- Head to Health – Provided by the Australian Department of Health, Head to Health brings together apps, online programs, online forums, and phone services, as well as a range of digital information resources.: https://headtohealth.gov.au/covid-19-support/covid-19
- Lifeline – Lifeline have developed a website on Mental Health and Wellbeing during the COVID-19 outbreak. It is available here: https://www.lifeline.org.au/get-help/topics/mental-health-and-wellbeing-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak
- Beyond Blue – Beyond website has some great resources on managing mental health, including fact sheets on managing depression, anxiety and worry. https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/looking-after-your-mental-health-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak
- Embrace Multicultural Mental Health – A national platform for multicultural communities and Australian mental health services to access resources, services and information in a culturally accessible format In the meantime, there are many other supports available. https://embracementalhealth.org.au/
The Australian Government has launched a plan to provide mental health supports during COVID-19. Information on this is available here: https://www.health.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/2020/03/covid-19-national-health-plan-supporting-the-mental-health-of-australians-through-the-coronavirus-pandemic.pdf
Pets and COVID-19
Its ok to take your dog for a walk. This is a great way to get outside, get some excercise, and look after your pets’ wellbeing. If you are self-isolating, consider talking to a friend or family about making sure your pets’ needs are still being met.
There is no evidence of COVID-19 virus transmission of the virus from domestic animals. It is safe to pat and interact with your pet. However, if you are touching a leash, or kennel, that other humans may have touched, wash your hands.
For more information on domestic animals, including importing restrictions, please see the following: https://www.agriculture.gov.au/coronavirus/animals
Can I get help if I can’t buy things I need at my local shops?
Unfortunately, many supermarkets have been running low on basic groceries and foodstuffs. Certain items are still in extremely short supply. Major supermarkets supply chains are taking steps to address this.
Some supermarkets have special arrangements for older people. Please see ‘special supermarket opening hours’ below, or contact your local supermarket directly for more information.
You may also order online and have things delivered to your home, though some of these services are currently suspended due to the amount of requests they have received. Some supermarkets are giving priority to isolated older people and other vulnerable groups (see below). If you are not able to do this, a family member, friend or neighbour may be able to help.
Some supermarkets are prioritising home delivery for vulnerable people, including older Australians and people with disability. Please see ‘Priority Assistance Delivery’ below.
Community organisations in your area may also be able to help.
Priority Assistance Delivery
Woolworths and Coles are prioritising home delivery for those who need it most. These delivery services are for older people, people with a disability, people who are immuncompromised, and those who are required to self-isolate. See the information below.
Woolworths: Many Woolworth stores are becoming Priority Delivery Hubs. These hubs will reduce trading hours to 11am-6pm. This will allow them to increase delivery services for online orders.
Community Pick Up is now available in 700 selected locations to allow Priority Assistance customers to place an order online for someone to pick up on their behalf. This service will be available for over 100 Pick up Drive through locations and in 600 stores for Pick up at the service desk. To apply for Priority Assistance delivery, customers need to complete the form at www.woolworths.com.au/priorityassistance or call 1800 000 610 to find out more.
Woolworths have also introduced an $80 ‘Basics Box’, which provides meals, snacks and a few essentials for those who are unable to visit stores. The products are available at cost price and are delivered to your home. For more information, click here: https://www.woolworths.com.au/shop/page/woolworths-basics-box?icmpid=sm-hp-hero3:other:other:wk39
Coles: Information on Coles Online Priority Service (COPS) is available here: https://www.coles.com.au/customernotice/onlinepriorityservice
COPS customers are eligible to shop at Coles online, and to use the ‘Click&Collect’ service. For those customers unable to visit a store, carers, family and neighbours of eligible COPS can pick up the orders in-store on a customers behalf, provided they can show ID and a copy of the customer’s order confirmation
Coles have also developed a ‘Coles Community Box’. The community box costs $80, and provides essential groceries and household items at cost price. The box is delivery-only. More information about it can be found here: https://www.coles.com.au/customernotice/community-box
Special supermarket opening hours for older Australians
Special supermarket opening hours have been introduced at major supermarkets to help older Australians, and people with disabilities, get access to the supplies they need.
The two major supermarkets are opening one hour prior to their revised usual trading hours. These special hours are available for older people and people with a disability. You will be asked to present your Australian Government (Centrelink) issued Pensioner Concession Card or Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, or Health Care Card or your state Government issued ‘Seniors Cards’ or ‘Companion card’. Coles Community Hour is now also open to carers, friends and neighbours of vulnerable customers. Carers, friends and neighbours will need to present the eligible customer’s government-issued card when entering the store.
See the times below:
Woolworths: 07:00am to 08:00am on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Coles: 07:00am to 08:00am on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Woolworths and Coles will also be open on Tuesdays and Thursday mornings exclusively for emergency services and healthcare workers. Hours may vary by store, so check with your local supermarket.
Other supermarkets may also have special arrangements for older people. Please contact your local supermarket directly for more information.
I’m under financial stress due to COVID-19. What should I do?
We understand that there are many people who have been stood down from work during this period, or struggling to meet living costs due to COVID-19. The Australian Government has introduced income support packages to help ease some of this pressure.
Jobseeker, Jobkeeper and the Economic Support Payment
Everything you need to know about Jobseeker, Jobkeeper and stimulus package payments can be found on the Services Australia website. The website is here: https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/subjects/affected-coronavirus-covid-19
If you are affected by COVID-19, and need to register for income support, you do not need to complete a full claim right away. You may wish to register your intention. If you are found to be eligible for income support, your payment will be backdated to the date at which you registered your intention. You can do this here: https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/subjects/affected-coronavirus-covid-19/if-you-need-payment-coronavirus-covid-19/register-your-intention-claim-payment-coronavirus-covid-19
You may also be eligible for the Economic Support Payment. If you are currently receiving income support payments, you don’t need to do anything to claim the Economic Support Payment, as it will be included with your regular payment.
If you are not currently receiving the payment, you will need to provide your bank details Services Australia. You can do this online through myGov, or call Services Australia. More information on this can be found here: https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individuals/services/centrelink/economic-support-payment/how-get-it
Seeking financial advice/support
The Australian Government’s Moneysmart website has a dedicated section on COVID-19 and decision making. This can be found here: https://moneysmart.gov.au/covid-19
You may also wish to call the National debt hotline on 1800 007 007, More information on the hotline is available here: https://ndh.org.au/
Early access to superannuation
From 20 April 2020, eligible people may be eligible to access up to $10,000 of their super in 2019-20 and a further $10,000 in 2020-21. COTA Australia does not offer financial advice. However, we are committed to protecting the retirement incomes of older Australians. We know that taking money out of your superannuation now may mean that you miss you miss out on tens of thousands of dollars in retirement further down the track. We strongly advise that you explore all other options before dipping into superannuation. Seeking professional financial advice before making this decision, if possible is important to understand the impact this may have on your retirement income.
I have tickets to an upcoming event. What should I do next?
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) website has the latest information on consumer rights, travel and event cancellations in relation to COVID-19. It can be found here: https://www.accc.gov.au/consumers/consumer-rights-guarantees/covid-19-coronavirus-information-for-consumers
I have an upcoming trip planned. Can I still go?
The Prime Minister and other leaders are urging all Australians to not travel unless it’s essential to do so. These social distancing rules help stop the spread of COVID-19 and will help to protect older and other vulnerable Australians. This includes travel within your state such as for Easter holidays or travel interstate. It even includes rethinking visiting friends locally.
The current advice is to avoid all non-essential domestic travel. This advice is likely to be in place for some months. While essential travel such as going to work if you cannot work from home, medical appointments, grocery shopping and other such travel is considered essential, please consider keeping all travel to an absolute minimum.
States and Territories have their own restrictions. Some have closed their borders, while others may have restrictions for visiting particular areas (including regional or remote areas).
If you have had to cancel an upcoming trip, and would like information on travel refunds or cancellations, go to: https://www.accc.gov.au/consumers/consumer-rights-guarantees/covid-19-coronavirus-information-for-consumers
If you have overseas travel planned, please follow the advice on SmartTraveller. The website will contain the most up-to-date information on travel restrictions and advice. This can be found here: https://www.smartraveller.gov.au/crisis/covid-19-and-travel
I received an email/sms/phone call about COVID-19 from someone I don’t trust – is it a scam?
Unfortunately, there have been multiple reports of scams related to COVID-19. For the most accurate and up-to-date information on COVID-19, please rely on Australian Government material.
If you receive communication that you think may be a scam, delete the messages. Do not open any attachments, and do not click on any links. If you think someone may have accessed your financial information, contact your bank immediately.
For the most up-to-date information on scams in Australia, please go to https://www.staysmartonline.gov.au/ or call 1300 292 371.
What is COTA Australia doing?
COTA Australia has been actively working to make sure the needs of older people are being prioritised. We have been working closely with:
- Australian Government (including the Department of Health);
- Politicians and decision makers;
- Media organisations;
- community organisations;
- health organisations;
- aged care providers;
- many others
How do I contact my State or Territory COTA?
The contact details for State and Territory COTA’s can be found here: https://www.cota.org.au/get-involved/visit-stateor-territory-cota/