New support services for you

Two new services are available to help older Australians through the restrictions put in place to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

The first is a general coronavirus hotline, the National COVID Older Persons Information Line, established to provide information on a myriad questions relating to aged care, dementia care, isolation and hygiene.

Older people and carers can call 1800 171 866 to speak to specially trained staff from an advocacy organisation related to their query, such as Dementia Australia.

Council On The Ageing (COTA) chief executive Ian Yates said some older Australians did not have access to the internet and had understandable concerns and uncertainties about how to minimise their exposure to the virus while carrying out necessary activities. The hotline would assist them.

The second service is a free text program set up through Sydney University to help people with chronic respiratory diseases while many hospital services are unavailable due to the pandemic

The free program reminds patients to seek usual medical care and take their prescription medication. It also offers practical advice, health information and support to help patients manage illness during the pandemic. Participants receive up to five messages direct to their mobile phone each week for six months.

The research team said that patients with chronic lung conditions including emphysema, chronic bronchitis and chronic asthma generally relied on pulmonary rehabilitation programs to help manage their disease and reduce the likelihood of infection and hospitalisation. This group, comprising an estimated 7.4 million Australians, was particularly vulnerable to severe COVID-19 infection and usual support and care activities had been suspended for many.

Professor Julie Redfern, deputy director of the Westmead Applied Research Centre (WARC), Faculty of Medicine and Health, said: “We are currently faced with a global pandemic associated with a serious and respiratory-based virus in a context of reduced usual care among a group of patients with heightened fear, anxiety and uncertainty.

“Therefore, simple and immediate strategies are needed to support Australians with chronic respiratory disease. Our goal is to provide patients an accessible way to overcome barriers of social distancing.”

The text message service was developed in close collaboration with health professionals such as physiotherapists, doctors and nurses, and underwent development and review with clinicians and patients.

Patients can sign up by texting the word ‘lung’ to the support phone number, 0437 045 826. Once registration is complete, Australian patients are able to receive and access support for six months.

The national program is free of charge for all Australians with chronic respiratory disease.

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures estimate 598,800 people have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which include people with chronic asthma and emphysema.

A university analysis concluded that patients with COPD had a more than five-fold increased risk of severe COVID-19 infection.

“Many patients are anxious about their risks of contracting the virus and also feel lonely and isolated,” said Prof. Redfern.

“We hope by offering the program to all Australians with chronic respiratory disease, we will see widespread support for these patients during a challenging time.”

Do you suffer from a respiratory illness? Are you taking extra precautions during this time?

If you enjoy our content, don’t keep it to yourself. Share our free eNews with your friends and encourage them to sign up.

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Written by Janelle Ward

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