Older people in nursing homes have a right to see their family, friends, supporters and cares just like anyone else in any other home in Australia. During the pandemic, some homes had to restrict visits in order to protect residents from COVID-19. Balancing these competing priorities is hard. COTA Australia has worked with consumers, the Australian Government and providers to develop the Industry Code for Visiting Aged Care Homes. This code includes recognition of State/Territory-based health directives and incorporates national guidelines.
The updated code includes a tier-based system of assessing risk in the community and ensuring that older people can get the visitors they want. Where there are no State or Territory restrictions on visits, homes should be operating at Tier 1. That means:
- open for visitors during normal hours (including outside of 9-5 and on weekends).
- ensuring visitors meet the screening criteria of not being unwell, not been in contact with a confirmed case or overseas in past 14 days and not been in a declared hotspot.
- educating visitors on entry about practising social distancing and hygiene during their visit.
- allowing visit in a range of ways including in a resident’s room, designated internal areas, gardens or other areas.
Window contacts are NOT a ‘visit’, but like videoconferencing and telephone calls are an additional way to connect with residents.
Homes may require a booking system where common areas are being used or numbers need to be managed to ensure social distancing.
Most aged care homes have done an excellent job of infection control, and respecting the wishes and rights of older people, but COTA has heard cases of some aged care homes not allowing people to visit with their relatives, families or friends, and of others with excessive restrictions.
Where there is no community outbreak of COVID-19 in their area this a breach of the Code and the Charter of Aged Care Rights. It is probably a breach of the Aged Care Standards.
Whilst almost all homes are allowing visitors and respecting the rights and wishes of residents, COTA continues to hear cases when operators have done the wrong thing.
We are keen to hear about and follow up with aged care home that are not allowing visitors, or are unreasonably restricting people meeting with their relatives, families or friends.
The rights of older Australians must be respected.
All information will be treated as anonymous and confidential.
COTA Australia will use the information you supply here to contact the homes (and their owners/networks/peak bodies) and advocate for them to improve their visitor policies. We will not share information that identifies you, or about your personal circumstance. We may use that information to contact you to follow up on your complaint.
You should also feel free to exercise your right to complain to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission on 1800 951 822.