How aged care residents are being safeguarded

Sean Rooney reveals how aged care residents really feel about lockdown and social distancing.

Aged care residents are being safeguarded

JD: And now we are talking to Sean Rooney the CEO of Leading Aged Care Services Australia and Sean is recognised as a leader in the age care sector. Speaking with authority on important issues across residential, home care and retirement living. Sean has led membership-based organisations and represented the interest of members on the local, national and international stage. Well versed and certainly well-educated to talk about what we are going to talk about today Sean firstly welcome.

SR: Oh, thanks very much, great to be here.

JD: How do residents feel about restricted visits to those who are in aged care?

SR: Look that's a great question, and there's been a lot of public discussion with regards to restrictions of visitation into residential aged care. Knowing that they were recommendations from the national cabinet, put in place to protect older Australians who were quite vulnerable to the coronavirus. We’ve just recently conducted a national survey of our members, and what it shows is when they’ve discussed this with their residents and also with the residents’ family and friends, the overwhelming majority of people approve of the restrictions or the protections that are being put in place by their aged care homes. So, 90 per cent of their family and friends and 82 per cent of residents either agreed or strongly agreed with those protections that were implemented, and the decisions made by their homes. So I think given what we've seen oversees, with respect is just some catastrophic outcomes to older people in aged care homes and nursing homes. I think over all we've done a pretty good job in this country, in seeking to get that balance right between ensuring good quality compassionate care, and connectivity with loved ones whilst also ensuring that we have all the appropriate protection in place to make sure that those most vulnerable to the COVID-19, and also those that are caring for them, are well protected.

JD: Well of course that's a massive responsibility isn’t it?

SR: Oh absolutely, and the aged care section deals with seasonal influenza outbreaks on an annual cycle. We have many numbers of infection control measures in place, and quality standards, and systems and processes, and protocols that we have to adhere to from a good practice standpoint but also from a regularity standpoint. However, it’s fair to say that the COVID-19 pandemic is something that none of us have ever dealt with before, either in aged care or in the wider community. So, ensuring that we are doing all we can to protect those that are most vulnerable is front and centre of our thinking and our practice.

JD: How are you linking residents with loved ones during the pandemic Sean? I mean with all the new technology, are they embracing the Zooms and the Facetimes and all the rest?

SR: I think this has been a game changer, to be honest. What we're seeing is significant investments from aged care providers in additional staff and upgrades t wifi system, purchasing of tablets and iPads, and phones and video conferencing infrastructure, all of those being to be able to maintain connectivity between residents and their loved. Because we know that good quality care is not just about the physical needs and the clinical needs being met, it’s also about the social, emotional, psychological and spiritual needs and a lot of that comes from their connectivity that older people in care have with their family and friends and their loved ones. So, we are seeing a significant investment, and what I'm hearing is reports back that some residents have never felt more connected, families have never felt more connected. The use of, as you said Zoom, Skype, instant messaging all of the platforms that have been available previously, but I guess we haven't really had the impetus to do this at scale and at pace. What I'm hearing from families and residents on a lot of occasions, and also from staff, is that this has been a game changer because the interaction has been perhaps even more frequent than it has been in the past.

JD: You're the voice of aged care and the largest representative organisation of aged care in the nation Sean what are some of the big issues you see moving forward post pandemic shutdown? How have the integration between clients and staff etc. how do you see this all moving forward?

SR: Look I think what we're seeing now around the country will be a relaxation of the social distancing measures. I think overall that’s a sign of success in flattening the curve which was the initial focus of the national response to COVID-19, however that comes with some concerns for older Australians as we know that as those social distancing measures are relaxed, the risk of infection will increase and we are likely to see clusters of infection outbreak. So we have to be specifically vigilant both in residential aged care but also in the wider community for in home care, to make sure that not just aged care providers but the entire community realises, firstly that a relaxation of social distancing measures is not a green light to go back to business as usual, and secondly to have front and centre in their consciousness and in their behaviours understanding that older people in our community and in care, are at risk and more vulnerable. So being vigilant is taking appropriate steps to ensure that they're not inadvertently risking transmission is something that we all need to focus on as a community as well as in our sector.

JD: I think already we’re seeing people be much more vigilant as far as a hygiene is concerned, social distancing of course all be it a legal requirement, also people are being more sensible, and are being much more cautious I think that's probably the way we're going to be for many years to come.

SR: Oh, I think you’re right. You know I think what we're seeing here is behavioural change on a significant scale that will play out for months, if not years. And I think that determines whether we have a vaccine or other measures to able to deal with this pandemic, but I think what we have seen overall, the aged care system in Australia has done a good job. Sadly, we have seen some deaths in some locations to COVID-19 and obviously our thoughts are with people who have lost loved ones. However, when you compare the performance of our system and health providers, and our work force, with some of the terrible outcomes internationally. For example, the UK in April was recording something like 2000 deaths per week in aged care facilities. The World Health Organisation has estimated that 50 per cent of the fatalities in Europe have been aged care and nursing home residents, and we know in the US it’s a similar story. So that really is sobering and shows what’s at risk, it also says that by and large the Australian aged care system and supported by the Australian community and the ability of our community to adapt to many of the measures that were implemented through the nations initial response to the pandemic. Those things have been working and I think that shouldn't be forgotten and I was very pleased, and I know that our workers were very pleased when the Prime Minister, the Health Minister and the Aged Care Minister all recently came out praised the work that is being done at the front line in aged care in the fight against coronavirus.

JD: Sean Rooney thank you so much for giving up your time. Sean is the CEO of Leading Age Services Australia, Sean very quickly if people want to get on to your website where do they go?

SR: www.lasa.asn.au

JD: That’s www.lasa.asn.au and if you would like to go to YourLifeChoices website you will see the link straight to Leading Age Services Australia. Sean thank you for giving up your time, and continued success with your great work.

SR: Oh, great thanks so much, thank you for your support and hope everyone can stay safe.

JD: We hope you've enjoyed this episode of Mind Your Own Retirement and you've found the talk on finance from David Haywood the professor of public policy at RMIT talking about the social aspects. And also, as mentioned, macular month. If you’re like me, need to go to optometrist quite regularly this is a good time to make sure your macular is healthy. And thanks to our good friends at Vision Eye Institute and also Sean Rooney who you just heard the CEO of Leading Age Services Australia looking after the aged care and how they're handling the visitor visitation and the other aspects of in home and also residential living. From me, John Deeks thank you so much indeed for being part of this podcast do make sure you invite all of your friends to YourLifeChoices website, become a member there's no charge and there's so much information there. Certainly, everything we’ve spoken of today is available on the YourLifeChoices website and until next time, be safe, be well, make sure your healthy in mind and body and we will see you next time for Mind Your Own Retirement.





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