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Peak bodies remind aged care services about rights to healthcare and spiritual care

Two different peak bodies are highlighting the importance for older people to continue accessing healthcare, whether at home or in aged care facilities, and for spiritual care to continue inside nursing homes during the COVID-19 epidemic.

Two peak bodies released statements about concerns over older people not receiving basic human rights, like healthcare or spiritual care. [Source: Shutterstock]
Two peak bodies released statements about concerns over older people not receiving basic human rights, like healthcare or spiritual care. [Source: Shutterstock]

The Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN) and Meaningful Ageing Australia, released statements about concerns over older people not receiving basic human rights, like healthcare or spiritual care.

Because of all the mixed messages from Government and State/Territory Departments, older people are struggling to understand what they can and can't do, and some aged care providers and services are being more restrictive on their residents/clients as well.

OPAN says it understands that it is a very stressful time for older people and their families, however, the elderly still need to access essential healthcare services they require. 

"The right to health and healthcare does not only apply in terms of access to health services for COVID-19 but the right for all older people to access health services to maintain their health and wellbeing," says OPAN in their position statement. 

"This includes the right for residents in Residential Aged Care Facilities to be enabled to access health-related and medical services externally to the facility that they are living in.

"COVID-19 has impacted all of us but especially on older people. Their perceived increased susceptibility to the virus has led to targeted responses designed to protect them. Unfortunately, these responses have led to a greater level of stigma and discrimination within the broader community."

The peak body believes there may come a time when health professionals need to balance the rights of diverse areas of society with potential limited resources.

OPAN recommends the need for an ethical framework to be created before healthcare resources begin to be rationed and allocated, so that vital resource decisions are not based on perceived social worth of an individual or group.

The peak body also highlighted that discharge from hospital is a difficult and vulnerable time for older people, and the current restrictions and physical distancing is exacerbating the vulnerability of these older people.

OPAN advocates have been told that many elderly people are being discharged from hospital without any planning for home supports, like food or other essential items. So the organisation is also asking for a review of the current discharge practices during COVID-19.

Meaningful Ageing Australia has raised their own concern that aged care services are shutting down their spiritual and holistic care services because of COVID-19.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Meaningful Ageing Australia, Ilsa Hampton, says, "Unquestionably, our communities need our physical health to be protected and supported in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. However, it is now, more than ever, that we need to strengthen the inner resources of ourselves and others. Now, more than ever, we need connection to what matters most and to what sustains us. 

"We have been greatly encouraged to see the many community and individual efforts springing up in response to our collective need for connectedness. Conversely, we have been deeply disturbed by reports of spiritual care being shut out when it is most needed.

"If you are supporting older people, check how your organisation is defining 'essential' with regards to their wellbeing. Do not allow yourself to be focused solely on clinical support or you will find in the weeks and months ahead you have created as many issues as you have solved. If you have spiritual care practitioners in your team, they are a major asset at times like this for individual, group and team support."

Meaningful Ageing Australia even released a guide to providing spiritual care to people during the current crisis.

Some of the examples in the guide include staff reflecting with older people about their experiences; training all spiritual care practitioners in the proper use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE); ensure end of life support; let rituals continue, like desire for prayer, song, meditation, reading uplifting material or connecting with their communities; or expand holistic care programs; provide meaningful care packages to clients or residents.

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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