Keeping connected during COVID-19

By Steph McNicol

KEEPING in touch with elderly loved ones has become a challenge as restrictions by the National Cabinet aim to reduce risk of COVID-19 to older people.

Current restrictions in place mean all aged care facilities must have strict protocols in place, restricting the number of visits and visitors to prevent transmission to residents.

Restrictions include limiting visits to a short duration, limiting the number of visitors to family members or close friends, visitors must be practising thorough hygiene and cough etiquette, and encouraging visitors to limit contact by staying in touch via phone or video calls alternatively.

Older people living at home during the coronavirus pandemic have also been encouraged to stay home to reduce their exposure to the virus.

Kaylah Sanders and her grandfather Max Langford.

Family members wanting to stay connected to their elderly loved ones have been left no choice but to come up with creative ways of safely keeping in touch with their older relatives, including video calls, letter writing and window visits.

Wallan resident Kaylah Sanders said to keep in contact with her grandfather Max Langford, 83, she and her mother regularly call him to see how he was coping with the lifestyle change.

“Most of the residents aren’t really capable of doing many things but he used to go to the movies and go to Craigieburn or Epping by himself. He told my mum and uncle on the phone that he’s sick of being in lockdown,” Ms Sanders said.

To brighten up his days, Ms Sanders drops of baked goods and his favourite treats at BlueCross Willowmeade, Kilmore, where he lives.

Katherine Daniels, of Wallan, said before the coronavirus outbreak she regularly spoke to her grandmother on the phone and went to see her, but now they had to adhere to social distancing rules to do so.

“We have been visiting her whenever we get the chance while adhering to social distancing rules, which means sitting in our car while she sits on the veranda outside her home or walking with us on the property with six feet of distance between us,” Ms Daniels said.

“As I work in a supermarket, I do her shopping for her and drop it off at her doorstep. Mum and I also go up to her town, Heathcote, to collect her mail and medication so she doesn’t have to.”

Bupa Woodend worked to ease the impact of visitor restrictions on residents by encouraging the community to write letters or for children to draw pictures to send to the aged care home.

Bupa Woodend general manager Katrina Bolmat said residents loved receiving the letters and it was a good way to keep children busy while they were at home.

“This is a tough time for all of us, but particularly for aged care residents who might be feeling disconnected from the community,” she said.

Ms Bolmat said the facility had also been organising regular video calls between residents and their loved ones to help them stay in touch.