The revolutionary new code for aged care visits empowering connection and safety for residents

Jul 04, 2023
This crucial revision underscores the importance of maintaining social connections while implementing rigorous safety measures. Source: Getty Images.

In a bid to strike a balance between safeguarding against infection risks and combating social isolation for aged care residents, the revised Sector Code for Visiting in Aged Care Homes has been released.

In order to safeguard the mental wellbeing of elderly individuals, the guidelines advocate for granting aged care residents access to essential visitors, even in times of lockdown. The introduction of the Code in 2023 was a direct response to the decreased health guidance provided by State and Territory authorities, which occurred after the initial response phase of the pandemic.

To mitigate the risk of transmission, the Code strongly emphasises that visitors should maintain up-to-date vaccinations, including boosters, unless there is a medical exemption. Furthermore, a thorough screening process is implemented to ensure that any potential symptoms are thoroughly assessed before allowing visitation.

With support from prominent aged care organisations and advocates for older individuals and their families, the updated code serves as a timely reminder that those residing in residential aged care still face significant risks from COVID-19 and other viruses.

This crucial revision also underscore the importance of maintaining social connections while implementing rigorous safety measures.

Council On The Ageing (COTA) Australia’s Chief Executive Officer, Patricia Sparrow, stressed the difficulty of finding the right balance between ensuring social connection and safety but highlighted its utmost importance

“We know that prolonged isolation causes irreversible harm. Having a clear code that clearly states that residents are always permitted to have at least one visitor, regardless of the COVID outbreak status, is incredibly important,” Sparrow said.

“We need to ensure that the needs of older Australians are always front and centre. That includes ensuring their health is prioritised, both physically and mentally.

“The code provides clarity around how we can balance COVID precautions with the dignity and wellbeing of older Australians, including their often neglected mental health.”

Craig Gear, CEO of Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN), acknowledged that prevention remains the best approach to balance infection risks with the mental, physical, and nutritional impacts of social isolation.

“We know older people are at higher risk of complications from COVID, so it’s important that all eligible residents have access to a booster vaccination,” Gear said.

“We also know older people have been disproportionately affected by the previous waves of lockdowns. The aim is to balance the infection risk with the mental, physical, and nutritional impact of extended periods of social isolation.

“The Sector Code for Visiting in Aged Care Homes ensures older people have access to an essential visitor at all times.”

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