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Two weeks in - Aged Care Industry Code reflection and questions answered

The Industry Code for Visiting Residential Aged Care Homes has mostly been adopted by a majority of aged care providers since it was introduced over the last two weeks, according to panellists taking part in a webinar hosted by the Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN) on 27 May. 

Chief Executive (CE) of Council on the Ageing (COTA) Australia, Ian Yates, says that most providers are following the new code. [Source: OPAN Webinar]
Chief Executive (CE) of Council on the Ageing (COTA) Australia, Ian Yates, says that most providers are following the new code. [Source: OPAN Webinar]

The webinar, which included Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of OPAN, Craig Gear; Chief Executive (CE) of Council on the Ageing (COTA) Australia, Ian Yates; CEO of Dementia Australia, Maree McCabe, and CEO of National Seniors, Professor John McCallum; discussed how the new visitation code has fared since its implementation.

Mr Gear says that over the last couple weeks, OPAN has been talking to people about the code to find out how it has been implemented on the ground.

All involved peak bodies and organisations have been receiving feedback from the public and providers about how the code is working and whether anything needs to be fixed. However, there wasn't information around any issues with the code.

Mr Yates said during the webinar that the feedback all organisations have been receiving about the code has made it easier to review the current regulations.

"Our sense from feedback is that most of the industry has embraced the code," says Mr Yates.

"It doesn't mean we haven't heard complaints about issues with a few aged care facilities… Unfortunately, some providers are saying, 'the code isn't the law, go away'.

"We have had less of those, but it is still the case. Overwhelming, the code has set the standard in the industry."

Ms McCabe added that the Dementia Australia helpline has had a reduction in calls since the code was implemented, which she believes is a good indication that the code has helped.

The panel also provided three steps to take on what to do if your provider isn't following the code.

  1. Talk to your provider - explain your situation for visiting and alternative ways to visit

  2. Seek advocacy help from OPAN

  3. Contact the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission

Code questions answered

The panellists answered questions from the public about the code to help people understand how the Industry Code for Visiting Residential Aged Care Homes would impact different scenarios.

Can Community Visitors Scheme (CVS) volunteers enter aged care? 

Mr Gear explained that the revised code should allow for extended visits from CVS volunteers, depending also on State or Territory rules.

However, if CVS volunteers are having issues, they should first talk to their State or Territory department and then contact OPAN.

Additionally, Mr Gear says that if the resident in question doesn't want to be visited due to COVID-19 concerns, then that should be respected.

Can pets go into aged care? 

The code doesn't have information or guidelines on pets in its current form. However, Mr Yates says that as long as the infection control measures are within regulations, he doesn't see a problem with animal visits to residents.

Do you have to have a flu vaccination to enter aged care? 

Professor McCallum explained that most peak bodies have been receiving calls in regards to flu vaccinations and entry to aged care.

He says that while everyone has their own opinions, the aged care peak bodies will stick to the medical reasonings behind getting vaccines.

Professor McCallum adds that the flu can be as dangerous as COVID-19 in some cases and that the flu shot prevents the virus from getting into aged care.

Mr Yates says if people are looking for alternatives to getting the flu vaccination, then they will need to look at different options with their providers.

"We don't want the flu or COVID inside the aged care. If you just don't want to have a vaccination, then you don't have the right to visit someone in aged care," adds Mr Yates.

How long will the code be in place? 

Professor McCallum had to remind viewers that the code and strict visitor regulations on aged care facilities will be in place for a long time.

Until the pandemic is over or a vaccine is created, all Australians should be prepared for visitor regulations in nursing homes.

Can advocates come into aged care facilities? 

Mr Gear says advocates should be seen as staff at that level in aged care facilities. So if a resident wants to see and advocate, then they must be allowed to receive advocacy support in their aged care home.

He adds that if there is another way of providing that same level of advocacy, like a telehealth meeting, then that can be organised as well.

Can I move out of my aged care home? 

It is a right of older Australians to live where they want to live, so if a resident wants to move out of an aged care facility, they are well within their right to do that.

Mr Gear adds that if you do want to move out of a facility, make sure the place you are moving has the right care and services in place to meet your needs.

Is the code mandatory? 

At the moment, the code is not mandatory for aged care facilities to follow. However, if a majority of aged care providers are not doing the right thing or following the code rules, then the code may be made mandatory.

At the end of the webinar, panellists reminded the viewers that the code will be reviewed by all signatories of the code on 29 May. 

This code will not be wholly revised, however, depending on the feedback all peak bodies received, it could be areas of the code that will be changed.

The code revision date has already passed and It is expected that the updated code will be available to the public on Wednesday, 3 June.

For more information about the coronavirus, visit the Aged Care Guide 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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