Voluntary lockdown and getting ahead of the curve

Isolation is an added problem for many people in aged care during the pandemic. Photo Cristian Newman/Unsplash.

A Byron Bay aged care centre has gone into voluntary lockdown as a precautionary measure to protect residents and staff from COVID-19.

In a move which has left some elderly residents distressed at the lack of direct contact with loved ones, Byron Aged Care (BAC) placed a blanket ban on visits to the facility last Monday.

It had already introduced the compulsory wearing of masks.

‘Given the increasing COVID-19 numbers in New South Wales, we chose to err on the side of caution in order to best protect our residents and staff,’ a spokesperson for Byron Aged Care said.

‘No-one may enter Byron Aged Care apart from staff and treating medical personnel. We will be reviewing this on a weekly basis in line with NSW Health and Queensland Health.’

The spokesperson said that the company which runs BAC, Alzheimers Queensland, had already been forced to close its three Queensland homes in response to a directive from the health department in that state. ‘It was deemed to be prudent to do the same in NSW as well as Queensland.’

She said the Byron home had not received any complaints, and that families of residents had said they were ‘doing the right thing’ and were ‘ahead of the curve’.

Residents were able to speak to their families via Skype and a 1800 contact line.

One local man whose elderly relative lives at the facility said the lockdown has been tough. ‘It’s causing him some distress, and also the relatives,’ said the man, who asked to remain anonymous. ‘But there’d be more distress if COVID got in.’

The BAC is the only aged care home in the Shire to voluntarily go into lockdown. However, the other homes have introduced tougher visitor restrictions. Byron’s two Feros Care homes continue to allow visitor access, but only two visitors are allowed at one time, health checks are conducted upon entry, and anyone entering a home must have a current influenza vaccination.

Aged care homes across the region have responded differently to the COVID-19 threat. Photo Elien Dumon/Unsplash.

‘All visitors are screened for temperature, symptoms and COVID-19 exposure “hotspot” checks,’ a spokesperson from Feros Care said. ‘Plus we have other protective measures in place during family visits, including visitors wearing a mask, social distancing and not gathering in communal areas.’

The other major home in the Shire, the Patrick Bugden VC Gardens run by RSL Life Care, has introduced a limit of one visitor per resident per day, and capped the time at two hours.

There are exceptions to this rule, such as when a resident is in the last stages of his or her life, and when a resident has a visitor who is an important part of their daily care.

‘Our top priority is the safety and well-being of our residents,’ the senior communications manager for RSL Life Care, James Fewtrell said. ‘People sometimes forget that, as well as being a hard time for residents and their families, it’s also a difficult time for staff.’

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