Welcome to the OPAN COVID-19 FAQ page. This page contains useful resources developed by other organisations, and answers to common questions regarding COVID-19 and aged care services. We have collected questions asked to the OPAN Information Line, and issues raised to OPAN aged care advocates by older people and their representatives.
Search these FAQs, and if your question has not been answered, please get in touch by clicking the “Ask a Question” button above. You can also look on our Information & Resources page or call the OPAN Information Line on 1800 237 981 6am-10pm (AEDT) seven days per week.
This is a public page intended for older people, their representatives and family. As the situation with COVID-19 is developing rapidly, the information below will be subject to change so please check back to this page regularly for updates. Each question will indicate when it has last been updated.
What is COVID-19 and how does it affect me?Last updated on April 6th, 2020
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause respiratory infections. COVID-19 is the disease caused by a new coronavirus that was first reported in December 2019 in China, and has now spread throughout the world, including every state and territory within Australia.
COVID-19 is spread from person to person through close contact with an infectious person, contact with droplets from an infected person coughing or sneezing, or by touching objects or surfaces that have droplets on them from an infected person and then touching your face. The symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to colds and flus and can include: fever, sore throat, dry cough, headache, tiredness, and difficulty breathing. The majority of people have a mild illness and recover. However, COVID-19 can cause severe pneumonia and death.
The risk of serious illness from COVID-19 increases with age. The highest rate of deaths is among older people (over 60 years) and those with other serious health conditions. To protect you, the Australian Government has put a number of restrictions in place. These restrictions impact us all, however, there are further restrictions for people receiving aged care services.
For specific information and advice for older people please read the Fact Sheet: For Older Australians on COVID-19.
Where can I go for all the COVID-19 latest updates, recommendations and information that I know will be trustworthy and correct?Last updated on April 30th, 2020
You can find the latest updates on COVID-19 including current facts and figures, key contacts and phone numbers at www.health.gov.au.
During this exceptional period there are certain restrictions put it place by the government for the safety of all Australians. These include:
- It is recommended that you stay home. You can go outside for the essentials, such as: shopping or exercising
- The one person per four square metre rule applies to all gatherings. Visits to your home should be kept to a minimum, with a very small number of guests. Extended family gatherings, barbecues, birthday parties and house parties are not permitted
- The following gatherings also have restrictions:
Weddings – no more than 5 people in attendance including the bride and groom
Funerals – no more than 10 people are to attend
- Practicing social distancing is one way to stop the spread of COVID-19. It means keeping 1.5 metres distance between you and other people wherever possible
- Special restrictions remain in place for aged care facilities to protect older Australians. You may be required to self-isolate, if you think you may have been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19.
Refer to your State Government website for up-to-date information and restrictions relating to your state.
Is information on COVID-19 available in different languages?Last updated on April 4th, 2020
A list of resources about COVID-19 is available in other languages. The resources include fact sheets, guidelines and other publications. To read or download the resouces, visit www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert/translated-coronavirus-covid-19-resources.
For non-English speakers or if English is a second language, please contact the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS) if would like assistance with understanding this information via www.tisnational.gov.au or phone 131 450.
Can I get help if I can’t buy certain items at my local shops e.g.: Toilet paper? Is there any special opening hours or times for me to shop as an older person struggling to find these things?Last updated on April 15th, 2020
Major supermarkets are taking additional steps to help older Australians and people living with disability get access essential the supplies they need. Coles and Woolworths stores are opening one hour prior to their revised usual trading hours. You will be asked to present your Australian Government (Centrelink) issued Pensioner Concession Card, Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, Companion Card, Seniors Card, Disability Card or Health Care Card. Check your local store for hours and for more information. Woolworths and Coles are also prioritising home delivery for those who need it most. Woolworths have introduced an $80 ‘Basics Box’, which few essential items for those who are unable to visit stores. The products are available at cost price and are delivered to your home. For more information visit Coles and Woolworths online. Other supermarkets may also have special arrangements for older people. Please contact your local supermarket directly for more information. To find information on eligibility for home delivery priority service please contact My Aged Care on 1800 200 422 (freecall) if you have not received this service before. If you need some help and support to do this please contact us at OPAN 1800 237 981 (6am- 10pm, AEDT 7 days a week or email us on email@example.com.
What are the different ways I can keep myself busy during self-isolation?Last updated on April 30th, 2020
This is a stressful time for many people in our community and managing your wellbeing and mental health during this time is important. Here are a few ideas that can help you to pass the time in self-isolation (source: Dementia Australia).
- Staying as active as possible is important. Try some gentle exercises either in a chair or around the house.
- Put plans in place to connect with others, during this difficult time it may need to be over the phone, WhatsApp or FaceTime.
- Participating in activities at home such as reading books and magazines, doing jigsaws, listening to music, knitting, watching tv and listening to the radio may help.
There are also ways to explore the world without leaving the couch. Many museums, theme parks and zoos are available to explore virtually. Some of the many to choose from are:
- Art and culture lovers can peruse the Guggenheim museum, take a (virtual) walk through national parks or visit the Taj Mahal thanks to Google Arts & Culture
- The Metropolitan Opera in New York City is streaming full performances online for free. You can watch on their website Metropolitan Opera House
- Take a walk around Disney World and Disneyland using Google Maps. Visit Disney World in Orlando Florida or visit Disneyland in Anaheim, California.
If you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed during this period, help is available. You can contact Beyond Blue Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service at 1800 512 348.
I am a 70 year old healthy man who likes his daily walks, in this period of COVID-19 is it still safe for me to go out?Last updated on April 15th, 2020
The advice is that older Australians over the age of 70 years of age or over 65 years of age with existing health conditions and Indigenous Australians over the age of 50 years with existing health issues should stay at home. It is recommended that you only leave your home for essential food shopping, medical appointments and exercise (practising safe social distancing of 1.5 metres). This is to protect yourself and others and limit the risk of COVID-19 spreading. The government has also announced a limit on both indoor and outdoor gatherings to two persons only, however some exemptions to this rule are: – People in the same household, or members of a single family unit – Funerals – a maximum of 10 people – Weddings – a maximum of 5 people – Individual states and territories have chosen to mandate and/or enforce this requirement. For more information, visit https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert/advice-for-people-at-risk-of-coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-covid-19-advice-for-older-people. Refer to your State Government website using the links below for up-to-date information and restrictions relating to your state. OPAN understands the importance of a person’s health and wellbeing and that the COVID-19 pandemic is causing stress and anxiety with many of these current restrictions. If you have any questions or concerns, contact OPAN on 1800 237 981 (6am-10pm AEDT, seven days a week) and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Will the flu vaccine be offered at home for older people who are socially and distance isolating?Last updated on April 30th, 2020
- Speak with your GP to see if any special arrangements can be made for a person living at home
- Check with your local pharmacy and explain your situation
- Call your local Council and State Health Department to find out if they are running any Flu vaccination programs. Please note the National Immunisation Program, which is an Australian Government initiative, offers free vaccinations under Medicare to people 65 years and over, and those with specific health conditions (the vaccine may be free, however you may be charged a consultation fee. Check costs when making an appointment.). The Flu vaccination is the most effective way for preventing and stopping the influenza virus from spreading.
ACT | NSW | NT | QLD | SA | TAS | VIC | WA
I am 70 years of age and I need to update my Will, but according to the government I should not leave my premises. What should I do?Last updated on April 30th, 2020
If your will has been prepared by a Solicitor or through the State Trustees contact them to see what options are available to you to make changes to your will at home. You can contact your State Trustee, Legal Services Commission and the Law Society for any questions or concerns you have with updating your will. OPAN recognises that it is important to make sure your financial and legal affairs are in order and up-to-date in accordance with your wishes at all times particularly now with COVID-19 impacting us all.
I am on my own and in self-isolation. I cannot travel to see my doctor or get my medications. What should I do – or can anyone help me with this?Last updated on April 15th, 2020
We recommend you contact your Doctor and discuss with them all of the options available to you. It is very important and encouraged by the Australian Government Department of Health that you continue to manage your health and seek medical advice when needed. If an emergency ring an Ambulance on “000”. The Australian Government Department of Health have also introduced a “Home Medicines Service”. This is a service available for people isolated at home, perhaps unable to get to their pharmacy and for other older people wanting to limit their risk of exposure to COVID-19 by going out in the community. This service enables prescription delivery (your medications) and other essential items to be delivered to home. Please contact your local pharmacy to discuss options with home delivery. To find out more visit https://www.health.gov.au/resources/publications/covid-19-national-health-plan-home-medicines-services-information-for-consumers. Australia post is also offering a free Express Post Service (under 500gms) once a month in partnership with pharmacies. The Australian Government Department of Health, Doctors and Pharmacists are all working together as they want everyone to stay at home as much as possible but still receive access to medical services, treatment and medications.
I am waiting to have an assessment done to receive some aged care services? Can I still have an assessment done at home?Last updated on April 15th, 2020
Yes, if you are waiting to have an assessment for a Home Care Package (Aged Care Assessment team or Aged Care Assessment Services in Victoria ) or for the Commonwealth Home Support Program (Regional Assessment Service) you can have your assessments at home or via telephone or telehealth to prevent any risk to yourself or others with COVID-19. Face-to-face visits are still permitted at home in exceptional circumstances and continue in hospitals. If you are waiting on an assessment and concerned your needs for services are becoming more urgent due to self-isolation, deteriorating health, please contact My Aged Care to ask about eligibility for emergency services for up to six(6) weeks without an assessment. My Aged Care can be contacted on 1800 200 422 and are open: Monday to Friday: 8am – 8pm. Saturdays: 10am – 2pm. If you need help and support in doing this please contact us at OPAN 1800 237 981 6am – 10pm AEDT 7days a week or email us at email@example.com.
I receive home care services and I am worried about my health and risk of COVID-19. Should I ask my care worker to wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)?Last updated on April 30th, 2020
No, if the home care worker and yourself are healthy and not showing symptoms for COVID-19, your home care worker doesn’t need to wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
In this video Alison McMillan, Australia’s Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer, demonstrates how and when to wear the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for aged care workers. PPE should be worn whenever the aged care worker is treating someone with a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19. PPE is not required when caring for other residents or clients.
Face masks are effective when worn by someone who is ill with COVID-19. If you have the virus, or think that you might, you must self-isolate, and wear a mask when you are near other people (such as seeking medical attention). Everyone must practise good hygiene to protect against infection and prevent the virus spreading. Just a reminder to practice social distancing (staying 1.5m away from others), wash your hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, cover coughs and sneezes and minimise touching your face. Please contact your home care provider and discuss your concerns or any questions you may have. If you are unhappy with the response, contact OPAN on 1800 237 981 (6am-10pm, seven days a week) and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Can my home care service provider cancel my services if the provider is unable to deliver a service due to social distancing restrictions (gatherings of two people), eg. a person requiring a three person lift?Last updated on April 30th, 2020
You may experience some changes to the way some of your services will be delivered. However, aged care service providers must ensure that older people continue to receive services that are an essential part of their daily care, especially if it impacts on health, wellbeing and personal safety. Please talk to your provider about any concerns or changes you would like to make to your current services because of the COVID-19 outbreak, or contact us here at OPAN on 1800 237 981 (6am-10pm, seven days a week) and email@example.com and we would be happy to help support you to raise these concerns with your service provider.
What is my home care providers current role and responsibilities in delivering my aged care services at home in the community?Last updated on April 4th, 2020
OPAN recognises that these are extraordinary times which require a different approach on how aged care providers deliver home care services.
It is important that aged care providers continue to engage and communicate with older people receiving services, their families and carers. As updates and recommendations are evolving it is important to ensure that you are informed about decisions that will impact you (your family and carers) and all those involved in providing your services. It is suggested that the care providers discuss and review the care plan of the person receiving their services. This will mean adjusting and re-thinking what the persons ideal goals are now that reflect the current circumstances and plan on how services will be continued.
In addition, home care providers need to work with home care staff to follow recommended precautions for preventing infection. This includes, hand hygiene before and after physical contact, cleaning environment and equipment, social distancing (1.5 meters exceptions with providing physical care eg: personal care) and ensuring good sneeze and cough etiquette. Guidelines for using appropriate PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) such as gloves, gown, masks and eye protection must be adhered to.
If you have questions about how your current care services will be affected by this, please contact your provider. If your service has been discontinued or you require assistance, please contact OPAN at 1800 237 981 (6am-10pm, seven days a week) and firstname.lastname@example.org.
How often and how many of us are able to visit our family member in a RACF (Residential Aged Care Facility) with the current COVID-19 visiting restrictions? Who can assist us if we have any concerns or questions about our visiting rights?Last updated on April 7th, 2020
OPAN recognises this is an extremely stressful and upsetting time for older people, families and carers, particularly where decisions have been taken without engagement with you. It is a challenging time for everyone.
Currently the Government has put in place restrictions to protect the residents and staff in an aged care facility, including:
- short duration visits
- maximum of two visitors at one time, may include family members, carers, doctors, close friends
- meeting the resident in a specific area selected by the aged care facility,
- Undergoing health screening ahead of your visit.
In addition to this, you are encouraged to practise social distancing, maintaining a distance of 1.5 metres.
While the current government advice is restriction of visitation to two visitors per resident, some RACFs are taking different approaches. Some RACFs have moved to a full lock down, except under ‘exceptional circumstances’. You can discuss ‘exceptional circumstances’ with the residential aged care facility and what this means to you and your loved one.
If you are unable to visit your family member (or your loved one), you can keep in touch in other ways. Phone calls, video calls, postcards, sharing photos, artwork, or short home videos through Skype or FaceTime. Please discuss with the facility all options that may be available and other ideas they may have. Setting up agreed times and arrangements which work in with both you and the facility to keep you in contact with your loved one.
OPAN is currently working with the Australian Government to clarify what makes someone eligible for exceptional circumstances and make this consistent across RACFs. We will continue to provide updates so please check back here.
How will the RACF (Residential Aged Care Facility) ensure that my loved one will continue to receive services and care, including care that was being provided by family and other external services?Last updated on April 4th, 2020
Speak with your aged care provider and ask what measures they are taking to ensure ongoing care and support of your loved one. If you are the legal representative of the older person, you can also request a copy of this persons individual care plan. This should be a revised copy that now includes and reflects all care provision by the facility. Request that a copy of the care plan be emailed or posted out for your own personal records. Continue to follow-up and communicate with the facility to ensure the plan is being followed through and discuss any concerns and provide other information (tips) that might assist in your loved ones care.
I want to take my mother out of her aged care facility during the COVID-19 crisis period. Will she be able to re-enter the facility at a later date if we decide to return and will we still have to continue to pay her fees?Last updated on April 15th, 2020
During the COVID-19 crisis period, many residential aged care facilities are restricting re-entry of residents, except for medical or dental treatment.
Please check with the residential aged care facility regarding their restrictions. Please understand that the restrictions a facility has put in place are to protect the residents and staff from the potential risk of transmission of COVID-19 and limit any future potential spread. Yes, if a resident (or a legal representative on residents behalf) does make the decision to leave the residential aged care facility over the COVID-19 crisis period, you will be required to continue to pay the basic daily fee rate. If you have concerns with the facility’s actions, contact OPAN on 1800 237 981 (6am-10pm AEDT, seven days a week) and email@example.com.
During the COVID-19 restrictions, can I still visit my loved one if they are in palliative care or nearing the end of their life?Last updated on April 30th, 2020
If you have concerns about your loved one living in a residential aged care facility with a decline in their health, receiving palliative care or nearing the end of life it is important you speak with their provider to discuss these circumstances to make agreeable arrangements for visiting at this time. Health Authorities are advising that service providers must continue to ensure that the Aged Care Quality and Safety Standards (standards that ensure the older person receive safe, quality provision of care) and the Charter of Aged Care Rights (their rights as a person receiving aged care services) are adhered to. This must include a balance to protect other residents and staff but also support the wellbeing and rights of your loved one and family members with the current COVID-19 risks. OPAN acknowledges this is an extremely stressful and challenging time for older people, their families, representatives and all aged care staff but the fundamental rights of an older person must be upheld. Organisations and services must ensure the Charter of Aged Care Rights and the Aged Care Quality Standards are adhered to as they respond to the evolving COVID-19 situation. If you are unhappy with the facility’s response, contact OPAN on 1800 237 981 (6am-10pm, seven days a week) and firstname.lastname@example.org.
During this COVID-19 period, is it safe for my children to send a letter to their grandmother who is in an aged care facility?Last updated on April 15th, 2020
OPAN recognises the impact COVID-19 is having for loved ones in residential aged care and families with visiting restrictions being put into place. Not all loved ones are connected with social media or other technology and remaining connected through other ways is very important . According to the Health Authorities and past experiences with other types of coronavirus, health experts say the risk is low. Following safe precautionary measures such as frequent handwashing is recommended. Please contact the Residential aged care service provider to discuss what restrictions (if any) have been put into place regarding letters and parcels. If you have any questions or concerns with regards to the facilities actions or “calls” on receiving letters or parcels please contact us here at OPAN on 1800 237 981 (6am – 10pm AEDT, 7 days a week or email us on email@example.com.
What are aged care providers doing?Last updated on May 4th, 2020
Aged care providers are expected to:
- Maintain their infection control protocols in line with national guidelines; and
- Establish and be ready to activate a COVID-19 emergency response plan to include: first steps if an infection is suspected or identified; arrangements to ensure adequate care of the individual; protection measures for other residents, visitors and staff; and notification advice to families, staff, and relevant authorities
- Reduce visitors to residential aged care facilities to protect older people. For current advice, please refer to the ‘Fact Sheet: For Families and Residents on Restricted Visits to Residential Aged Care Facilities’ here.
- While the current government advice is to reduce visitors, in order to protect older people in their care, some residential aged care facilities have made the decision to stop all visitors except in ‘exceptional circumstances’. OPAN is working with aged care service providers to provide clarity around ‘exceptional circumstances’
- We acknowledge that this is a very stressful and upsetting time for residents, families, and aged care providers. We ask residents and families to please be respectful to services and aged care workers. Please follow their directions in relation to COVID-19 infection control measures including good hygiene and social distancing. These measures are at this stage precautionary and preventative and are in place to protect older people
- It is important that services communicate effectively with residents and families about their protocol and processes, including how they will ensure communication with family and friends outside of the facility is maintained. Above all, aged care rights must be respected. The Charter of Aged Care Rights remains in place to protect older people, read the charter here
- If you would like to speak with an Aged Care Advocate, please contact us via the details below.
Talk to your aged care provider about what they have in place.
How has COVID-19 impacted residential respite care?Last updated on May 24th, 2020
Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT) Assessments
There are now streamlined assessment processes for older people wanting to enter an aged care home for respite care, which can be used in some circumstances. These streamlined processes are in place during the COVID-19 outbreak period.
To protect the health of assessors from the Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT) and older people during this time, flexible phone or telehealth assessments are available, in addition to fact-to-face assessments. Face-to-face assessments will still be permitted where necessary to support the needs of the older person.
Under urgent circumstances, and older person can enter an aged care home for respite care in an emergency with an ACAT approval.
If an older person enters respite without an ACAT approval, the provider must complete an Application of Care Form and send it to the ACAT within 5 business days of the date the older person entered care. A provider can apply (via email) to the ACAT delegate to request an extension in exceptional circumstances where the form cannot be submitted within five days.
Duration of respite care and extensions
Eligible older people are entitled to 63 days of subsidised respite care in a financial year, however you maybe be able to apply for as many as 21 days extension as needed. Under current arrangements, older people who wish to continue in respite care require an ACAT assessment in order to obtain an extension to their respite.
During a COVID-19 emergency lockdown situation, people receiving residential respite may need to be quarantined in an aged care home for an additional 14 days or more. Providers can as usual submit a residential respite extension request through the My Aged Care provider portal. In these emergency circumstances, providers may seek ACAT assistance for a respite extension if needed, noting it is still an ACAT delegate decision whether to grant or reject the extension. There are no limitations on the number of residential respite care extensions that can be granted.
A care extension may only be granted for the approved level of care (i.e. Residential Respite Low or High). If an older person needs a higher level of respite, they will require a new assessment. This can be facilitated by requesting a Support Plan Review in the provider portal, or if required by contacting the ACAT for assistance who can also raise a Support Plan Review request to support the provider due to emergency circumstances.
More broadly, as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, providers should discuss a client’s care needs with the client and their families, and assist in seeking the appropriate approvals required for extending their respite if needed.