Coronavirus (COVID-19) latest information for carers

Coronavirus (COVID-19) latest information for carers

Carers NSW is closely monitoring the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation, the ongoing government response and the wide ranging impacts it has on carers. Below is our latest COVID-19 information and resources for carers.

General information

The Australian Government Department of Health website provides daily updates, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), the latest news, current facts and figures, travel advice and contact details. Visit www.health.gov.au for more information.

NSW Health provides the latest information and advice on the coronavirus (COVID-19) on their website at www.health.nsw.gov.au

The NSW Department of Communities and Justice have information for seniors, people with disability and carers on their website.

Carers can visit these websites or call the National Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080 (or the National Relay Service on 1300 555 727) for up to date advice about the present level of risk and recommended precautions.

Latest information from Thursday 9 July, 2020

The national public health guidelines on COVID-19 have been updated with a statement from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) about how to manage health risks as COVID-19 measures lift.

These guidelines highlighting that each person has a personal responsibility to protect themselves, to protect loved ones and the wider community. Even if cases remain low, people are advised to:

All people need to consider:

  • their personal or individual risk of severe disease
  • the level of transmission of COVID-19 where they live and travel
  • which interactions and activities are important to them and how they can be done safely
  • whether and when they are comfortable to participate in these activities and when they are not (for most people this will depend on the number of cases in the community).

New resources have been developed to support people at higher risk to make COVIDSafe decisions about work, transport and social activities during the COVID-19 pandemic. These include

The temporary closure of the NSW border with Victoria came into effect from 12.01am Wednesday, 8 July with both NSW Police and the Australian Defence Force deployed to enforce the measure across 55 border crossings. A number of measures came into force from midnight including:

  • Road closures in place across the NSW and Victorian border
  • Any planes from Victoria arriving at NSW airports met by police and health staff
  • NSW residents returning from Victoria are required to self-isolate for 14 days.

Other than returning NSW residents, only limited categories of people are able to cross the border, such as:

  • Critical service providers including agriculture and mining workers
  • Emergency services workers
  • People requiring medical treatment
  • Children attending boarding school
  • People needing to meet legal obligations.

Provisions are in place for residents of border communities, such as Albury-Wodonga, to cross borders for work, education or daily life without requiring to self-isolate.

To enter NSW, people must apply for a permit on the Service NSW website. Those permitted to enter will also need to comply with any conditions of an entry permit such as the requirement to self-isolate.

Deloitte Access Economics has raised concerns about JobKeeper and Jobseeker being withdrawn at the same time. Deloitte has warned that with 835,000 people already having lost their jobs there is a risk of “generational damage” if governments do not ensure that economic supports are not introduced in a timely and adequate way.

Mental health

A free 24/7 mental wellbeing support phone service specifically designed to help people through the COVID-19 pandemic is being offered by Beyond Blue on 1800 512 348.

A report based on a survey of over 3,200 Australians and led by the ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods has found:

  • Almost one in two Australians, 47 percent, say they are more stressed because of the COVID-19 crisis
  • 3 in 10 Australians say their finances have worsened during the pandemic
  • 40% feel “downbeat”
  • 43% feel lonely or isolated due to related lockdowns
  • 1 in 5 say they are worse off in their relationships
  • 3 in 10 females say their relationships have improved compared to 1 in 4 males
  • Young people were more likely to report their relationships were worse (24.1%) while those aged 75 years or older were less likely (7.5%)
  • Those with the most improved relationships were 35-44 years old
  • Those with partners or children in their household were more likely to say relationships had improved compared to those without
  • only 22.5 percent of the population are estimated to have not experienced any of these negative changes during the COVID-19 period compared to 51.6 per cent who reported no improvements in the same measures.

A new joint white paper has been delivered by Suicide Prevention Australia and Wesley Mission. It highlights broader social and economic factors causing distress in the community and suggests the following:

  • increase the base rate of JobSeeker (NewStart) and extend JobKeeper past September.
  • build domestic and family violence workforce capacity to screen for mental health issues and suicide risk.
  • invest in mental health screening and a model of care for retirement villages.
  • deliver a national survey into the impacts of COVID-19 on the mental health of Australians.
  • fund screening and tailored suicide prevention training for frontline hospital staff faced with alcohol and other drug issues.
  • extend the moratorium on evictions and address long-term housing and accommodation needs through the recovery phase of COVID-19.
  • promote fact-based sources of information on COVID-19.

Specific information for carers of older people

Senior Australians have been urged to stay vigilant as the fight to contain the spread of COVID-19 continues. Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians, Richard Colbeck, said vulnerable and older members of every community remained a priority as both Federal and State governments navigated the challenges of the pandemic.

Where cases have increased residents should consider:

  • their individual risk and risk to others
  • the level of transmission of COVID-19 where they live and travel
  • which interactions and activities can happen safely or should be postponed.

The latest AHPPC advice for vulnerable Australians can be found here.

A new fact sheet for Aboriginal Elders has highlighted practical tips to support and take care of themselves during COVID-19.

OPAN is running a webinar on COVID-19: Getting back into your community safely on Monday 13 July from 11-12pm. The webinar will cover ways to assess risk levels of different activities, how to balance risks with safety measures, the updated Industry Access Code and the latest AHPPC statement of advice. You can register to attend the webinar here.

The Industry Code for visiting Residential Aged care Homes during COVID-19 was updated for a second time on 3 July 2020 and new resources have also been uploaded which are available here

The Code was updated to reflect that:

  • “spouses or other close relatives or social supports” are not limited in the number of hours they spend with relatives
  • children under 16 are once again able to visit aged care homes
  • all visitors must be vaccinated against influenza
  • all visitors should practice social distancing
  • staff are required to screen visitors, educate visitors about social distancing and hygiene during their visit, but not supervise visits
  • visits should occur in a resident’s room, outdoors or in a designated visiting area – but not in communal areas
  • there is a maximum of two visitors per resident at any one time
  • residents are able to leave to attend small family gatherings (with providers undertaking a risk assessment prior to the outing and a screening process post)
  • in the event of an outbreak of COVID-19 in the home or a local cluster in the community – increased restrictions, including supervised visits and suspension of external excursions may be reintroduced.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, older Australians or their families may have been cancelling or reducing their aged care services due to fear, or confusion about what is allowed under the current restrictions. To ensure that older Australians are not missing out on services they need to stay healthy and feel supported during this challenging time, the Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN) is receiving referrals from Home Care and Commonwealth Home Support Programme providers. This wellbeing check service is available to all home care and Commonwealth Home Support Programme recipients, not just those who have paused their services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A call with OPAN can discuss adjusting or declining aged care services, the re-instatement of services as community restrictions are relaxed, and can provide assistance to older Australians and their families to access aged care advocacy information. More information about OPAN call back referrals is available here.

The Community Visitors Scheme (CVS) is a program that arranges visits to older people to provide friendship and companionship. Visits are usually available to anyone receiving government-subsidised residential aged care or Home Care Packages. Regular visits from volunteers can help to improve quality of life and help older people feel less isolated. The focus at present is on phone and ‘virtual friendships’ while physical distancing measures and visiting restrictions are in place. More information about the Community Visitor Scheme is available here.

Senior Australians are also being supported to stay connected through two new initiatives aimed at preventing loneliness and social isolation, as part of the Be Connected Program. Friend Line – 1800 424 287 - is a national telephone support service for older Australians, answering up to 60,000 calls a year. Friend Line is free, anonymous and provides the opportunity to chat with a volunteer. It is available seven days a week between 10am and 8pm.

Senior Australians, their families and carers can now call a dedicated free call support line 1800 171 866 aimed at supporting the mental health of those impacted by the spread of COVID-19. Operating Monday to Friday from 8.30am to 6pm, the phone line will be staffed by advisors who can offer practical help and advice. The phone line is established in conjunction with the Council on the Ageing Australia, National Seniors Australia, the Older Persons Advocacy Network and Dementia Australia. People who are feeling lonely or distressed, troubled or confused, or need to talk to someone about their concerns caring for a vulnerable person during the COVID-19 outbreak are encouraged to call the support line. More information about the Free COVID-19 support line for Senior Australians is available here.

To help senior Australians stay in touch with friends and family, Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP) service providers funded to provide Social Support activities (individual or group) can use grant funds to purchase IT including tablets, smart devices and internet subscriptions and spend up to $500 per person, per year. The IT must be purchased to enable older people to connect with their family, carers and social groups. With a third of all senior Australians living at home, there is a real need for this assistance to alleviate loneliness and social isolation.

Free webinars are available to help improve the online skills of senior Australians through the Be Connected program. To learn more about developing new online and digital skills visit the Be Connected site.

Specific information for carers of people with disabilities

The Australian Government Department of Health has established a COVID-19 Health Professionals National Disability Advisory Service to assist health workers helping people with disabilities through COVID-19. The Advisory Service provides specialised advice regarding the care of a person with disability diagnosed with COVID-19 or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. Some people with disability may become very anxious in these situations and require reasonable adjustments to their healthcare to ensure they receive, either COVID-19 testing or treatment, with minimum distress. Specific support may be required to address communication and management issues, such as behaviours of concern and the reduction of risk to the patient and staff involved in the process.

Calls to the Advisory Service will be answered by health professionals with disability service qualifications and experience working with people with disability. Health professionals can call the service on 1800 131 330 from which is available 7am – 11pm (AEST) 7 days a week. The helpline will be available for a six week trial, at which point it will be assessed on use and future need.

The Australian Government Department of Health has released a video, Coronavirus (COVID-19): Wearing personal protective equipment for disability workers.

Dylan Alcott and Get Skilled Access have partnered with the National Disability Insurance Scheme to create new resources on the importance of physical distancing and the part that all Australians play in keeping each other safe, which are available on the NDIS website. Dylan Alcott’s video has tips and considerations for everyone in the community to reduce risks for people with disability as we move into the next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated restrictions.

The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) has published resources for people with disability on the COVIDSafe app. The web pages show how the app will allow health workers to contact the user if someone they have been near them in the past 21 days and later tests positive for Coronavirus, and will let them know what steps they will need to take next, to keep themselves and those around them safe.

The NDIA has partnered with Melbourne University to undertake research to better understand people’s experiences with NDIS services during COVID-19. You can complete the 15-25 minute survey here.

If you need individual information or support, please phone Carers NSW on 02 9280 4744 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm) or call Lifeline at any time on 13 11 14 for 24-hour emotional and crisis support.

 

Carers NSW is seeking further feedback from carers and service providers on the present challenges carers are experiencing as a result of COVID-19. The Policy Team is accepting expressions of interest to be involved in a second Zoom consultation regarding these challenges. You can also complete our online Policy Advice Form survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/policy_advice_form or email Carers NSW on contact@carersnsw.org.au

 

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Carers NSW acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the land, Elders past and present and all Aboriginal people.