Who is listening to residents in the aged care visitation debate?


As the government and aged providers grapple over the way forward on visitor access in aged care homes, we’ve heard from families but have we really heard from the voice of residents?

Over the past three weeks, we have conducted public polls and private surveys with over 5,000 aged care residents, relatives, frontline workers and aged care providers.

Results from these surveys initiated by CarePage have shown that the majority of family members and residents are supportive of the measures put in place by homes to minimise the risk of infection.

We recognise this is a small snapshot of residents and of a moment in time. But what is important here is that homes are taking the initiative to actually ask residents their opinion rather than be led by anecdotal evidence, which historically is how decisions have been made.

It’s a complex issue and families have good reason to feel anxiety and stress to not see their loved ones, especially for those residents living with cognitive impairment.

So, it is not surprising that while the majority of family members support the home’s response, they do have some concerns about their relatives.

Feedback across our surveys also highlighted a number of theses concerns and areas for improvement, ranging from concerns about ‘loneliness’ and ‘residents not having enough activities’, to concerns for their loved one living with dementia, concerns of families who normally visit daily to help with care needs, through to the opposite end with some families concerned about the homes opening the doors to the aged care home too soon.

Visitor restrictions in aged care homes across the country have proven to be a divided debate, with providers and the government initially clashing over the best way to protect the elderly.

Like anything though, it’s often those with the loudest voice that often trigger a response. And too often we see decisions to adopt changes impacting the elderly without adequate consultation. 

While aged care providers have vast experience dealing with outbreaks of infectious disease, this has never been on a community-wide scale like COVID-19; strategy and stakeholder management for infection prevention and control is extremely challenging in these circumstances.

As the situation continues to evolve, and as time passes and residents and relatives continue to have limited interaction the mood and wellbeing of both residents and relatives will change.

By gathering regular feedback from residents, relatives and employees aged care providers can be responsive to the changing sentiment and wellness in the home, and ensure the measures they have in place are best suited to the needs of their community at that time.

As the debate continues regarding the next stage of aged care’s response to COVID-19, what is evident from our insights is that there needs to be broader consultation with residents,  relatives and frontline workers.

During these times, giving the elderly a voice and using feedback data to make informed decisions has never been more important.

By Lauren Todorovic
CEO, CarePage