This initiative includes a new telephone hotline, an expansion of the Community Recovery Hotline, to provide older Queenslanders with essential services and supports they require.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says the COVID-19 risk and symptoms are more severe in older Australians, which is why the State Government has pulled together this Care Army to protect nearly one million older Queenslanders.
“Queensland’s community spirit always shines through in times of crisis, as it did when the Mud Army went into action after the 2011 floods,” says Ms Palaszczuk.
“The Care Army may operate differently because of health and safety restrictions, but the spirit and effect remain the same.
“Many seniors will of course be supported by family, but others will need volunteers and community service organisations to help them stay home and stay safe and with things such as food or medicine drops. Even something as simple as a daily telephone call can make a huge difference.
“Older people, particularly those with pre-existing medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease or a weakened immune system are most at risk of serious infection.”
The Care Army will be coordinated by the COVID-19 Seniors Panel, led by State Minister Kate Jones. Additionally, a community awareness campaign will be launched to show people how to help older Queenslanders during this time.
Minister Jones will be collaborating with Queensland Health, community organisations and essential services, like supermarkets and pharmacies, during this time.
“When the Premier asked me to do this job I jumped at the chance because it’s so critical. We will scale up care and support services for Queenslanders over 65 years of age with underlying health issues, all Queenslanders aged over 70 and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over the age of 50 with one or more chronic diseases," says Minister Jones.
“The best place for seniors to be right now is in their own home. Seniors should not be out and about doing errands that someone else can do for them. It is now up to every single Queenslander to show we care.
“Whether it’s your mother, your grandfather, your next-door neighbour or a friend, we all know a senior in our community who will need us so they can stay safe from infection.
“If you don’t have family or friends in this age group who you can help, we still need you to step up and help those people who will be looking for it and you can do that by contacting our 1800 number. We’ll give clear advice to family members and friends about how to safely support seniors.”
Minister Jones also urged Queenslanders to limit any interactions they may have with people who are in the high risk groups for COVID-19.
Instead, to help with the stress of isolation, Minister Jones recommends chatting with older people over the phone, video call or email, rather than in person.
Queensland Government also suggested if you want to start helping older people now, you can do so by:
Asking for shopping lists from older people and dropping their groceries at the door
Teach the elderly how to online shop
Offer to pick up scripts or medications from the pharmacy
Inform older people of telehealth services and that Australia Post is delivering medication
Family and friends can give a daily call to their older loved ones, teach them how to video call, or ask the grandparents to read a book to their grandchildren at bedtime over Skype
Queensland peak body for the social service sector, Queensland Council of Social Service (QCOSS), is working with the State Government to ensure the Care Army initiative is a success.
Chief Executive Officer of QCOSS, Aimee McVeigh, says this is an opportunity for Queenslanders to create something wonderful in a period of uncertainty.
“It is essential to have the safety net of a scheme like the Care Army for people who do not have any informal supports," says Ms McVeigh.
"However, we should all be community minded, starting in our own backyards. There are many ways you can socially connect with those in your community while practising social distancing.
“If you don’t know your neighbour, this is the perfect opportunity to chat to them over the fence to find out who they are and how you can help them. Or leave them a note near their front door with your phone number to let them know you are there for them.
“If you are worried about your neighbour’s safety you should report your concerns to the police.”
If you require help, call the Community Recovery Hotline on 1800 173 349, or if you wish to volunteer and assist older Australians in Queensland, contact 1800 173 349, or head to the Queensland Government website.