The COVID-19 Catch-22 endured by older Australians must be urgently addressed, the Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) has told the Aged Care Royal Commission’s Impact of COVID-19 inquiry today.

While well meaning, COVID-19 social isolation, visitation restrictions and infection control measures have had the detrimental effect of accelerating physical, mental and cognitive decline in many cases, the APA told the Royal Commission inquiry.

APA Board Member and former chair of the APA’s Gerontology group, Rik Dawson, said the impact was already being seen among older people, with an almost doubling in the number of life-threatening falls and other injuries occurring in residential aged care facilities.

“Action must be taken to address the aged care COVID-19 catch-22,” Mr Dawson said.

He said the archaic residential Aged Care Funding Instrument, which has been widely dismissed an inefficient, severely limits both access to, and the type of, care older Australians can receive and must be amended urgently.

“The effects of COVID-19 on older people in residential aged care are disastrous, but there’s a simple solution - amend the funding model and provide urgent access to the type of care that’s desperately needed and wanted,” Mr Dawson said.

The APA said the solution was physical activity and exercise.

“Many older people are confined to their homes, rooms and wards for weeks on end and unable to do any exercise,” Mr Dawson said. “Increased focus on infection control, COVID testing and post-testing isolation for healthcare workers and reduced or no visitation from family and friends are having tragic consequences.

“Without their usual support to get exercise and socialisation, the condition of older people is deteriorating to a point that it could become irreversible or fatal.”

In its submission and evidence to the commission, the APA recommended a number of other solutions, including:

The establishment of a multidisciplinary Aged Care COVID-19 Response Team to conduct daily telehealth (phone) welfare checks on older people in the community to ensure they are receiving the health care they require.
The provision of iPads to residential aged care facilities to enable telehealth care delivery
A model to address COVID-19 recovery health needs.

The submission looks at how COVID-19 has impacted physiotherapists, and the care of their clients/patients in hospitals, the community and residential aged care facilities, including:

Access and use of personal protective equipment (PPE)
impact of measures including “one site” policies on delivery of care to older people
how restrictions have affected the health of older people including those living with dementia
use of telehealth
residential transfers from aged care facilities to hospitals.

The full APA submission can be found here.

 
 

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