The onset of COVID-19 has undoubtedly brought about significant challenges, especially for the aged care industry in Australia. Being one of the most vulnerable populations, aged care facilities in Australia need to take extra precaution.
In Australia, aged care facilities were hit hard with high numbers of COVID-19 cases and, deaths in the past year. Yet, even with the availability of vaccinations and the COVID situation improving, aged care facilities cannot let their guard down.
While COVID-19 cases have been relatively under control, there are still many different variants of the virus out there. Once it reaches aged care facilities, it will be challenging to get it under control.
With that, here are some tips aged care providers, can do to keep aged care facilities in Australia COVID-free!
Practice social distancing at all times
Protect yourself, your loved ones and others around you. In general, we should keep at least a 1m distance away from each other to prevent the spread of COVID-19. While giving a hug or a handshake is normal and vital to some when meeting people, we should all keep in mind that these actions can trigger a potential COVID-19 transmission.
Thus, it is essential for us to visit our loved ones in aged care facilities to practice social distancing at all times. Aged care facilities in Australia should and would have demarcated specific visiting areas, be in their rooms or outdoors.
It is crucial for us, visitors, to adhere to these guidelines. In cases where you want to give your loved ones a hug, you need to ensure that your hands are properly sanitised to prevent the spread of any germs.
Aged care facilities in Australia should also delegate some staff members as social distancing ambassadors. This is to ensure that everyone adheres to social distancing measures. The more spread out everyone in the facility is, the less likely there would be a COVID-19 outbreak.
Practice personal hygiene
When we are visiting aged care facilities in Australia, it is imperative that we practice personal hygiene. Some hygiene practices include:
- Regularly and thoroughly cleaning your hands, either with alcohol-based hand sanitiser or washing them with soap and water. This can help kill germs on your hands, preventing them from spreading when you touch your face or coming in contact with other people in the facility.
- Wear a mask. It is highly recommended to wear a mask even though it may not be compulsory to wear one, depending on your state regulations. A mask can help prevent the spread of germs when you or others sneeze or cough.
- Avoid touching your face after touching other surfaces. You don’t know if the surfaces have been cleaned. If you really need to touch your face, make sure that your hands are thoroughly washed first.
Aged care facilities in Australia should also have hand sanitisers or wet wipes around the facility for visitors to use. This is so that visitors also do their part to help keep the facilities clean and germ-free.
Ensure that aged care facilities are constantly being cleaned
Similar to visitors practising good personal hygiene, it is also the responsibility of the aged care facility to ensure that it is continuously being cleaned. Other than having alcohol and wet wipes around the facility, aged care facilities in Australia can also consider having a specialised COVID-19 cleaning team.
This team will be responsible for sanitising the entire facility. For smaller organisations, they can also consider using third-party cleaning companies. These third-party cleaning companies can come in once or twice a day to thoroughly clean the facility.
With more professional equipment and more robust cleaning resources, they can definitely ensure the cleanliness of aged care facilities.
In general, aged care facilities in Australia should focus on cleaning high touch areas, which include: Visitor sign-in systems (tablets, paper forms etc.), doorknobs, tables, stair railings, telephone handles and coffee machines.
Avoid overcrowding in aged care facilities
Given that everyone will be eager to visit their loved ones after lockdown, the more critical it is for aged care facilities in Australia to limit the number of people in the facility at each time. State regulations can also regulate the number of people allowed in the aged care facility at one time.
One way to do so is to implement a visitor booking system, whereby each visitor has to pre-book their visiting slot and timing. Visitors will also be pre-screened and asked to upload their proof of vaccination. This is so that aged care facilities in Australia can ensure that all visitors going in and out of the facility are COVID-free.
While there are many different types of visitor booking systems out there, it is crucial for aged care facilities in Australia to adopt those that are best suited for them. This can help prevent overcrowding in facilities as a limited number of people can drop by per time slot, spreading out the crowd throughout the day.
Another way aged care facilities in Australia can prevent overcrowding is to assign some staff to patrol around the facility to ensure that no large crowds are forming. In the situation whereby a big family is coming to visit their loved one, staff can encourage them to carry out their visits in batches.
Follow federal and state government guidelines
Lastly, aged care facilities in Australia need to follow federal and state government guidelines and regulations and remain compliant. Besides adhering to Australian aged care codes of practices, aged care providers need to comply with federal and state government regulations.
One easy way that aged care facilities in Australia can remain compliant is to hire an aged care compliance officer. There is an increasing demand for an aged care compliance officer, especially with COVID-19.
He/she will help manage all aspects of compliance and risk management. Furthermore, an aged care compliance officer will also be responsible for educating the staff on compliance practices. By having a dedicated person or team for compliance; aged care facilities in Australia are more likely to remain compliant and keep their COVID-19 cases under control.
If hiring an aged care compliance officer is impossible, you can refer to your state’s website for regular updates. They can also subscribe to their newsletters and receive updates when there are changes to guidelines and regulations.
While the COVID-19 situation is currently under control in Australia, we should not be complacent. Aged care facilities especially should be taking extra precautions to make sure that they aim to be or remain COVID-free.
This responsibility does not only lie with aged care providers but also lies with us, individuals! We should all be careful and always practise personal hygiene to protect ourselves and others around us. Only by working together can we make this world COVID-free!