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New COVID-19 hotline for older Australians launches

Older Australians will now be able to call a dedicated COVID-19 hotline to access the critical information they need to stay healthy and safe during the coronavirus epidemic.

Older people and carers are welcome to call the hotline to speak to trained staff from a senior's advocacy organisation. [Source: Shutterstock]
Older people and carers are welcome to call the hotline to speak to trained staff from a senior's advocacy organisation. [Source: Shutterstock]

This hotline can provide older people, their family and carers with personal support, answer questions and up to date information on the latest guidelines enacted by the Federal Government.

Aged care peak bodies and organisations, Council on the Ageing (COTA), National Seniors Australia, Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN) and Dementia Australia, united together to create the National COVID Older Persons Information Hotline.

The Federal Government has also supported the hotline initiative, and older people and carers are welcome to call the hotline on 1800 171 866 to speak to trained staff from a senior's advocacy organisation.

Chief Executive Officer of OPAN, Craig Gear, says the hotline supports those accessing aged care services, which have been disproportionately impacted by health precautions and restrictions.

"People are scared and confused. Many are unsure what is safe and what isn’t. The hotline is an important part of what will need to be a big community response," says Mr Gear.

"We need everyone checking in and supporting older people in aged care in particular because they are vulnerable to both the virus and social isolation.

"Our message to older people is that there is no need to do this alone. There are services there if you need them. There are no stupid questions."

Chief Executive of COTA, Ian Yates, says the elderly are more likely to not have access to the internet, or have limited understanding of how to use the internet, and may have concerns and uncertainties about how to minimise their exposure to COVID-19 while carrying out any essential activities. 

“The government has very sensibly advised Australians over 70 to stay at home as much as possible. This means many people have questions about what they should or shouldn’t do or how they can get access to groceries, health care and other services," explains Mr Yates. 

"This hotline will provide the information they need and allow them to speak to an organisation they can trust about their concerns."

CEO of National Seniors, Professor John McCallum, adds that the service provides call centre staff who are experienced and will be a friendly and sympathetic voice on the other end of the line.

"It’s unrealistic to expect older Australians who are living alone and are told to stay home, not to suffer some sort of mental anguish, anxiety and uncertainty," says Professor McCallum.

"This helpline is there to help them through what are challenging times for all of us, but especially our seniors. We’re all in this together."

Maree McCabe, CEO of Dementia Australia, says the organisation is encouraging people with dementia, their families and carers to connect with the trained Dementia Australia advisors on the new hotline.

“We can offer strategies and support for families with concerns about a loved one in residential care. We can support carers of a loved one at home who might be struggling with isolation or changes in routine,” says Ms McCabe.

“And we are here for people living with dementia to talk through their own issues and come up with solutions to support them through this period of uncertainty.” 

The National COVID Older Persons Information Hotline is now live and can be called on 1800 171 866. 

For more information about the coronavirus, visit the Aged Care Guide's COVID-19 update page. 

Do you have any questions about the coronavirus that you want answered? Tell us in the comments below or email journalist@dps.com.au.

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