Infection Control Spot Checks in Residential Aged Care: What Providers Need to Know

The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (ACQSC) is stepping up its program of infection control spot checks of residential aged care homes.

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Weekly Wrap: 19 July 2020

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Weekly Wrap: 19 July 2020

Aged care news highlights from the week ending 19 July 2020.

The information in the Weekly Wrap is aggregated from other news sources to provide you with news that is relevant to the aged care sector across Australia and worldwide. Each paragraph is a summary of the subject matter covered in the particular news article. The information does not necessarily reflect the views of CompliSpace and Critical Success Solutions.


Coronavirus / COVID-19 News

Proactive testing starts at Vic facilities while peaks call for mandatory hospital transfers

According to Australian Ageing Agenda, mobile COVID-19 testing teams have been deployed to swab people living and working in residential aged care in Victoria’s lockdown zones as the number of positive cases among residents and facilities skyrockets. The initiative aims to help health authorities identify instances of community transmission before an outbreak occurs. There have been at least 57 new cases and two deaths among Victorian aged care residents since 7 July when there were no active cases, Federal Government data shows. There are 39 aged care facilities with positive cases among residents or staff including three facilities with more 20 cases each, the Victorian Government reported on Thursday. Meanwhile, aged care providers peak bodies tell Australian Ageing Agenda that residents who test positive to coronavirus should be transferred to hospital.

 

Melbourne aged care staff advised to wear masks

According to Australian Ageing Agenda, aged care workers in Victoria’s lockdown zones must wear surgical masks, the Federal Government has announced as Melbourne facilities see a surge in the number of residents testing positive. Minister for Aged Care Richard Colbeck and Minister for Health Greg Hunt announced the directive yesterday following recommendations from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee. They also announced an additional 4 million masks will be made available for Victorian residential and home aged care providers in the areas with restrictions including greater Melbourne and Mitchell Shires. The directive comes as Victoria sees at least 33 new cases of COVID-19 among aged care residents including one death in the last seven days.

 

Advice on use of masks and PPE

(Note: this excerpt is from the Department of Health newsletter. We cannot provide a link to the full version of this story until the Department of Health uploads it to their website.)

According to The Department of Health, the government has recently published advice on when masks should be worn in the community. The advice about wearing masks in the community has been the same since the pandemic began: it is not generally recommended. However, if you are in a region where community transmission is occurring, you should take extra precautions, in some circumstances. If physical distancing is difficult to maintain, for example on public transport, covering your face with a mask can provide some extra protection. You will still need to maintain all the regular protection measures.

Please inform your clients and care recipients about this guidance as well as senior Australians who may be your friends, neighbours or family members. This is separate to the advice for aged care workers in Victorian hotspots who are now required to wear face masks. Further information on the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) including masks is available on the Department of Health’s website:

PPE video which provides a demonstration on how to appropriately use PPE

Resources for the health workforce on the use of PPE.

 

NSW Chief Health Officer: Advice for NSW Residential Care Facilities

(Note: this excerpt is from a letter sent to aged care facilities. We cannot provide a link to the full version unless NSW Health upload it to their website)

The NSW Chief Health Office has written to directors of residential aged care facilities in NSW to ask them to implement the following measures:

All facilities:

  • Anyone with fever or respiratory symptoms, even mild, should be excluded from the facility. They should be advised to isolate at home and seek COVID-19 testing.
  • Any visitors who have been in Victoria in the last two weeks should be excluded from the facility.
  • Until the end of July, any visitors to any residential aged care facility who have been in the following local government areas in the previous two weeks should be excluded from the facility: Liverpool, Campbelltown, Camden, Wingecarribee and Wollondilly.
  • All aged care staff who reside in the above South Western Sydney local government areas must wear a surgical mask while in the facility until at least the end of July. Further advice will be provided should this be a required measure post the end of July.
  • Staff and visitors who have visited any of the locations linked to the COVID-19 outbreak in South Western Sydney (see updated list of venues and dates at (https://www.nsw.gov.au/covid-19/latest-news-and-updates) should be excluded for a period of 14 days since their visit to the listed location. It is important to regularly check the website, as this list may expand.

Additional steps for facilities in South Western Sydney:

  • Residential aged care facilities in the above South Western Sydney local government areas should not allow any visitors until at least the end of July. In exceptional circumstances (end of life), seek advice from your local NSW Health public health unit on 1300 066 055. Further advice will be provided should this be a required measure post the end of July.
  • All residential aged care staff who work in residential aged care facilities located within the above South Western Sydney local government areas must wear a surgical mask while in the facility until at least the end of July (irrespective of where they live or have visited). Further advice will be provided should this be a required measure post the end of July.

 

Workforce Retention Bonus Payment

(Note: this excerpt is from the Department of Health newsletter. We cannot provide a link to the full version of this story until the Department of Health uploads it to their website.)

According to The Department of Health, the workforce retention payments are starting to flow to providers this week. Due to the large number of applications, the grant round has been extended and will close 31 July 2020, and payments will continue into August. The My Aged Care call centre is also undertaking a phone out campaign to remind providers to apply. To ensure that applications can be processed promptly providers are reminded to include their provider ID and service ID on the Staffing Profile Spreadsheet supplied on the GrantConnect website. All information regarding this grant opportunity can be found on the GrantConnect website. In addition we have Retention Bonus FAQs to assist providers and their employees. Provider enquiries on the application may be submitted in writing to: grant.ATM@health.gov.au.

 

Other News

Perceptions about aged care residents’ welfare ‘very negative’

According to Australian Ageing Agenda, frequent visitors to residential aged care are more positive about the quality of facilities and care than non-visitors but almost all Australians agree that residents are often lonely. That’s according to research conducted for the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety between July 2019 and January 2020 to be published on Monday 13 July. The research asked Australians for their views on older age and aged care through a national survey of over 10,000 adults by Roy Morgan and a qualitative study by Ipsos involving 35 focus groups and 30 in-depth interviews. Overall, the community’s perceptions about residents’ welfare were very negative, according to Research Paper 4 – Ageing and Aged Care Survey and Research, which was prepared by Roy Morgan Research Institute senior research director Gerry Bardsley.

 

RC floats aged care standard on mental health

According to Australian Ageing Agenda, mandating an explicit and measurable requirement that aged care providers maintain the mental health of residents is among proposals put forward by the aged care royal commission this week. The three-day hearing, the first since hearings were suspended in March due to COVID-19, is looking at how the aged care system interfaces with mental, oral and dental, and allied health care. The hearing began on Wednesday in Melbourne where only royal commissioner Tony Pagone appeared live with all attendees connected via video conference technology. Counsel Assisting Richard Knowles said they would test potential solutions for the shortcomings identified during the commission’s hearings in Canberra in December and elsewhere.

 

Most want home-based aged care

According to Australian Ageing Agenda, most Australians want to grow old and receive care in their own homes, research conducted by the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety shows. A survey of more than 10,000 Australians reveals that 80 per cent of older people want to remain in their current home and 62 per cent want to receive care services in their own home. Only 25 per cent of older people said they would prefer to live in a facility.

 

Older Aussies crotchety but wise, aged care drab and scary: focus groups

According to Aged Care Insite, close-minded, crotchety and scared but also wise and knowledgeable. Those were some of the top-of-mind descriptors Australians used in focus groups with market research firm Ipsos, which was seeking out the views of the general public and key groups for the aged care royal commission. The team broached questions like ‘How would we describe someone who is older?’ and ‘Does society have an obligation to older people?’. Aussies held some concerns about ageing, particularly relating to deteriorating health, financial stress and the loss of independence. But it wasn’t all doom and gloom – older age was also seen as a time of considerable personal freedom, and assuming the aforementioned issues are not too great, one of relaxation and free choice.

 

Keep elderly out of aged care for better mental health, royal commission hears

According to Aged Care Insite, improving oral and mental health will save the government and taxpayers millions of dollars and importantly drastically improve the lives of people in the aged care system, the aged care royal commission has been told. The commission resumed after a break due to the ongoing pandemic and the hearing will focus on the intersection between the mental, oral and dental, and allied health care needs of older people. On day 80 of proceedings, the commission heard that 49 per cent of people in residential aged care had a diagnosis of depression and people would be better off not entering the residential system at all. Geriatric psychiatrist Stephen Macfarlane says 50 per cent will have dementia while 20 per cent of people are likely to also have an undiagnosed case of the illness.

 

Call to do more on meeting residents’ spiritual needs

According to Australian Ageing Agenda, residential aged care isn’t as bad as most people think but residents do need more emotional and social support to address wellbeing and loneliness, a peak body CEO tells Australian Ageing Agenda. As AAA reported, large research conducted for the royal commission released research this week found the Australian community has a very negative view of aged care residents’ welfare. While frequent visitors to residential aged care are more positive than non-visitors, almost nine in 10 Australians agree that residents are often lonely. The CEO of the national peak body for spiritual care and ageing Meaningful Ageing Australia, Ilsa Hampton said the split between perceptions of regularly visitors and other was interesting.

 

Pharmacists launch opioid education program

According to Hospital and Healthcare, the Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia (SHPA) and the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) have teamed up to bring 21,000 pharmacist members up to speed on recent opioid regulatory changes to encourage safer medicines use. Supported by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, Talking pain: Opioid options and alternatives is accessible via the SHPA and PSA websites. The program comprises four online learning modules, with tailored advice to help pharmacists increase their awareness and understanding of appropriate opioid use and alternative treatments for pain, and how to effectively communicate with patients and consumers experiencing pain.

 

Time to lift governance in the aged care sector: Governance Institute launches updated guidance to assist embattled industry

According to the Governance Institute, as the aged care sector grapples with the impact of the pandemic as well as an ongoing spotlight from the royal commission, a revised guide sets out best practice governance.

 

Legislation

No significant developments this week.

 

Resources and Upcoming Events

New Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission Resources – issued June 2020

The ACQSC has issued the following resources:

Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission Glossary: The Commission has produced a glossary of common terms to aid understanding of the aged care services sector. The list is not intended to be exhaustive and is provided as general information only.

Common questions you may want to ask residential aged care services about COVID-19: You, your friends and family have a right to know how your residential aged care service is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. We have developed some common questions that you can ask your service provider during this time.

Service Compliance Ratings Fact Sheet: The Department of Health, in partnership with the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (the Commission), is introducing a service compliance rating system for residential aged care services. The rating system was developed in consultation with stakeholders, including senior Australians, their caregivers, aged care providers, and a range of peak bodies.

 

Flu vaccination poster

The Department of Health has issued this Flu Vaccination Poster. Residential aged care facilities may wish to display the attached poster at entrances, to alert anyone entering the facility of the flu vaccination requirements that came into effect on 1 May 2020.

 

Older Person’s COVID-19 Support Line

According to The Department of Health, a new Older Person’s COVID-19 Support Line has been set up to provide information, support and check on older Australians during the period of social distancing measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. COTA Australia, National Seniors, Dementia Australia and the Older Person’s Advocacy Network have banded together to deliver this service with support from the Australian Government.

Senior Australians, their families and carers can freecall 1800 171 866 if they:

  • would like to talk with someone about what COVID-19 means for them or a loved one
  • are feeling lonely or distressed
  • are caring for a someone and need some information or a listening ear about what COVID-19 means for your circumstances
  • are worried about COVID-19 means for their usual aged care service
  • are worried about a friend or family member living with dementia.
  • are unable to access information on the internet and would like up-to-date advice.

Home care services providers can also use the number and dial option 1 to refer home care clients who would like a call from an independent organisation to check on their wellbeing.

The service will include outbound and inbound calls to provide contact, reassurance and practical advice on connecting to services to maximise social engagement and wellbeing whilst at home.

 

Resources on diverse population groups are now available for aged care staff

According to The Department of Health, The End of Life Directions for Aged Care (ELDAC) website helps you to care for older Australians at the end of life. Our new diversity resources can help health workers and aged care staff to care for:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
  • Care leavers
  • Carers
  • Culturally and linguistically diverse people
  • Financially or socially disadvantaged people
  • People experiencing homelessness
  • Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people
  • People living in rural and remote areas
  • People with spirituality and faith beliefs
  • Veterans

How people think about death, dying and end of life is different for each person. Learning about these differences can help you to provide good palliative care. Access these resources on the Diverse Population Groups page of the ELDAC website.

 

Calculating residential accommodation payments in a leap year

This year is a leap year, with 366 days instead of 365. The Department of Health has received queries from approved providers of residential care seeking advice on how to calculate a daily accommodation payment (DAP) in a leap year. The calculators specified in the Fees and Payments Principles 2014 (No. 2) (the Principles) refer to 365 days for working out:

  • the DAP (or contribution) equivalent to a refundable accommodation deposit (RAD) (or contribution)
  • the amount of interest on a RAD (or contribution) balance or accommodation bond balance.

Even though 2020 is a leap year, residential care providers should continue to use 365 days when calculating DAP amounts and the interest payable on refunds of lump sum deposits. But please be aware that daily payments and daily contributions are payable for 366 days in 2020.

 

What Matters Most – New person centred care resources

According to The Department of Health, Palliative Care Australia, through a Dementia and Aged Care Services Fund grant, has launched a suite of resources to encourage early conversations about What Matters Most to older people, their care and their end of life preferences.

 

6 steps for safe prescribing antipsychotics and benzodiazepines in residential aged care

Issued by the Department of Health, this infographic outlines the 6 steps for safe prescribing antipsychotics and benzodiazepines in residential aged care.

 

Aged care video alert: Dignity of risk

According to Lexology, the concept of dignity of risk is not entirely new, however it now has a position of prominence in aged care with the Aged Care Quality Standards. In this video update, senior associate Dr Melanie Tan explains:

  • What does dignity of risk mean?
  • Where and when does dignity of risk apply?
  • What is the duty of care within dignity of risk?

 

ACE Editorial Team
ABOUT THE AUTHOR | ACE Editorial Team
ACE is published by CompliSpace and Critical Success Solutions. CompliSpace is an Australian company that specialises in helping organisations manage their legal and regulatory obligations. Critical Success Solutions is an Australian company that specialises in helping Aged Care and Disability Services manage their regulatory and legal requirements.

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