COVID-19 FAQs for Family and Friends – Helping Hand

FAQs for Family and Friends


Click on the headings below to read some commonly asked questions and answers

Below are some COVID-19 FAQs we are often asked from families and friends, along with clients and residents.

We endeavour to answer the most common questions, but if your question isn’t answered below, please call:

  • One of our direct numbers if you have a specific question about a resident, client, service or care home. Direct numbers can be found here
  • Our central enquiry line (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm), if you have a general question about our response to COVID-19, on 1300 653 600

 

These FAQs are current as at Thursday 2 June 2022. As the situation is likely to change rapidly, we will update our questions and answers as we get new information to share.


Depending on the situation at each residential care home there may be restrictions in visiting.

There is a daily web update which shows the status of each home as either Partners in Care or Open with Care. These programs are explained in the next FAQ.

  • From 10 June 2022, all visitors will need to show proof of having had the 2022 seasonal influenza vaccination (babies under six months are exempt from this requirement), and will need to ensure that social distancing and hygiene practices are followed.
  • From 26 November 2021, all visitors will need to show proof of having been fully vaccinated (2 doses) against COVID-19.
  • From 29 January 2022, all visitors will need to show proof of having received, or booked, their COVID-19 booster vaccination within four weeks of becoming eligible.

There are some exemptions to the government mandates about COVID-19 vaccinations, for full details visit the SA Health website.

Partners in Care Program for homes in lockdown

Helping Hand is working with families to ensure vulnerable residents are able to maintain essential visits from a nominated person during lockdown. You can read a fact sheet about the Partners in Care program by clicking here.

 

Open with Care visiting protocol for homes coming out of lockdown

You  can read a fact sheet about the Open with Care program by clicking here.

  • Visiting hours are usually 10am-12pm and 2pm-4pm and 6pm-8pm daily.
  • A maximum of two nominated visitors are allowed per day. A resident or decision maker can nominate who visits.
  • Based on some of the infection control measures in place visitors may be asked to call reception to book visits.
  • Visitors may be asked to arrive 15 minutes early to complete a Rapid Antigen Test, which we will provide.
  • Visitors must wear appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE, such as masks, shields and gloves), which we will assist you with. Hand hygiene and careful signing in and out continue.
  • Children under 12 years of age are encouraged to wear a mask when visiting if appropriate in the circumstances and they can do so.
  • Please limit visits to 30 minutes, where possible. The home can let you know if longer visits are allowed.
  • Please maintain physical distancing from other residents, families and staff.
  • Where possible, please visit in resident rooms and in outdoor courtyards
  • If families would like to drop things off, please do so via reception, rather than enter the home.
  • Video and phone calls will continue. Please call the care home during business hours to book video calls.
  • Residents may choose to leave the site to visit family and/or friends at any time. Given the continued community transmission of the virus we ask that you carefully consider the need to leave the home. Please speak with staff for masks and advice on staying safe whilst in the community.
  • Residents who leave to attend a medical or other appointments, or visits to families, may have testing and isolation requirements on their return to the home.
  • Please do not visit if you are unwell.

You can check in on your family member by phone, video call or window visits if you’re unable to visit. Our homes are ready to support you when you are ready to book in a chat. Just give us a call and we can arrange a time.

Please know that our staff are doing everything to keep the tempo up here. We are playing music, and having really lovely, long conversations with our residents. We are all trying to stay positive and keep residents in good spirits. Our lifestyle staff are working hard, and we are supporting them with additional staff, so that we can keep activities and spirits high.

Each of our homes has a private Facebook group for families to keep in touch with their loved ones. Please ask reception at our homes for the link to join the group that your loved one lives in.

We are still able to welcome new residents to Helping Hand, depending on the situation at the residential care home you’re interested in.

Our Admissions Team is still taking enquiries and working with families to accommodate people needing resident permanent and respite care.

You can take a virtual tour of our homes any time by visiting the Residential Care section of our website.

Our Admissions Team will support you and work through the process with you and your loved one. We recognise it is important to help a resident settle in, and one support person will be able to come in on day of entry, provided that they meet the screening requirements regarding travel history and health and comply with safe practices (hand hygiene, social distancing) on site.

Like many sectors we have a significant number of staff who are impacted by COVID and are in and out of isolation. To address this we have put in place:

  • Managers with relevant qualifications have been deployed back to front line care roles
  • Staff are temporarily able to work at more than one residential care home. While this is a scenario we prefer to avoid, at the moment we need to provide high quality care which means staff working where there is the greatest need
  • Rapid Antigen Testing for residential care home staff at least every 48 hours – this is absolutely helping to keep COVID-19 positive, but asymptomatic staff, out of our care homes
  • At times we need to rely on some agency staff, they are facing the same pressure of staff in isolation as we are
  • Staff check-in procedures and clear communication not to come to work if they are unwell. If staff fall ill while at work they are sent home

If any resident appears unwell or tests positive for COVID-19 (or any other illness) our normal care and clinical processes are undertaken. This includes:

  • Assessing the resident’s condition
  • If there is time, we consult with the resident’s GP on the situation
  • A decision is made in conjunction with the resident and/or their primary contact about where the best care will be provided to them

We are required to follow SA Health’s mandated guidelines in handling an ‘outbreak’ at any residential care home. An outbreak is considered one positive resident or two positive staff.

In the event of an outbreak we are required to stop non-essential visitors and request that residents remain in their rooms, including for meals.

Testing and tracing is undertaken by a Helping Hand team to determine how we proceed, according to the SA Health guidelines.

While vaccination is mandatory for staff and visitors, we are required to follow the SA Health guidelines in an outbreak. We do not have the discretion to allow residents to move around and visitors to come and go.

Care packages can be dropped off for residents at any time during business hours. Please clearly mark their name and use the intercom at the front door to talk to Reception who will come and collect your package.

We have purchased as many Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) as we can secure and have received a small supply from government stockpiles. As with the general public, we are having great difficulty in securing as many RATs as we need.

Residential care use of RATs

  • Staff are taking RATs at least every 48 hours before starting work.
  • Partners in Care and visitors to homes that are Open with Care may need to take a RAT, and return a negative result, before they enter a residential care home, if we have them available.

Home care use of RATs

  • Due to our limited supplies of RATs, only selected home care staff, in higher risk situations, are taking RATs before starting work.
  • Currently, we do not require home care clients to take a RAT before we provide services.
  • If a Home Care client is unwell, or a close contact of a COVID-19 positive person, we encourage them to register with SA Health to collect a rapid antigen test or to attend a testing site for PCR testing. Unfortunately, we are not able to source or supply RATs for Home Care clients.
  • We are continuing with our strong screening procedures for staff and clients to keep our community as safe as possible.

SA Health advises a COVID-19 outbreak can be declared as over in a residential aged care facility 10 days from when the last staff member or resident received a positive COVID-19 result.

  • Staff and residents who are diagnosed with COVID-19 no longer need to isolate once 10 days have passed from their positive test, so long as they have not had any COVID symptoms for 72 hours.
  • A negative test is not required to end isolation.

Residents will then be able to leave the facility, with the following safety steps in mind:

Appointments and Outings
No quarantine requirements but a Rapid Antigen Test will be undertaken on days 2, 4 and 7. If the resident tests positive they will be quarantined as per SA Health requirements.

Day Trips
No quarantine requirements but a Rapid Antigen Test will be undertaken on days 2, 4 and 7. If the resident tests positive they will be quarantined as per SA Health requirements.

Trips 2 days or more
Quarantine required for days 1 and 2 upon return with a Rapid Antigen Test required a day prior to return. Further RATs on days 4 and 7. If the resident tests positive they will be quarantined as per SA Health requirements.

If you are a resident at the home, your allied health services will continue.

Our clients who live in the community but who visit our homes to see allied health professionals will have alternative arrangements made.

Please call the home directly before arriving (see a list of our direct numbers here) so you can arrange to leave your deliveries outside the front door. When you arrive, please use the intercom at the front door to speak with a staff member who can accept your delivery.

Yes. We will be asking our clients travel and health questions prior to entering their homes. This is to make sure it is safe for our staff to visit, and to make sure our clients are staying healthy as well. If clients are unwell, our staff will still visit, but will wear extra protective gear. All staff will be wearing masks while providing services to you.

All Home Care workers must show evidence that they have had at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccination by 30 November 2021. This is legislated by the State Government.

From 29 January 2022, all Home Care workers will need to show proof of having received, or booked, their COVID-19 booster vaccination within four weeks of becoming eligible.

During these difficult times, it is important that we all take steps to minimise risk from COVID-19 infection. Our service is built on caring for others and helping them to live their best lives at home. Our goal is to continue to do this with your safety, and ours, in mind throughout this pandemic. To help us, we are asking you to join us in taking some simple steps each time we come to visit you. These steps are for the benefit of us all.

  1. Masks are our best first protection. All our staff are required to wear a mask at all times when they are in your home. For maximum protection we encourage you to also wear a mask while we are visiting and working. The chance of two masked people sharing this infection is extremely low.
  2. Vaccination. All of our staff are fully vaccinated and, where eligible, are having their booster shot as well. Vaccines are strongly encouraged for your wellbeing also.
  3. Our staff will practice hand hygiene – they will have disinfected their hands before they enter your home. We ask you consider doing the same using either hand sanitiser or soap and water. Sadly, shaking hands is still not a good idea just now.
  4. Social distancing is another strong barrier against this disease. Staff will maintain a social distance of at least 1.5 metres during their visits. We ask that you help – maybe even by sitting in another room or outside if possible, during the visit.
  5. Airflow via good ventilation helps too. We ask that you consider opening your doors and windows during our visits.

Our staff are, sadly, not immune to this disease – as you know, a few have already contracted it and have, with our care, isolated and are recovering. We will contact you if your staff member tests positive and it may impact you. As case numbers grow in our State, there may be more cases amongst our staff, despite all of our very best efforts.

This may mean that from time to time we need to delay or change our visit times, or the person visiting, to make sure that everyone we help gets the services they need.
We will always do our best to let you know as early as possible of any changes, and work with you to come up with another good time or day for us to visit.

Please know that all our staff, behind their mask, have a smile to share with you, and are happy to see you. We all look forward to the day we can once more show our faces.

Thank you for your help and consideration.

Yes, from 29 January 2022, everyone entering a residential aged care home needs to have had – within four weeks of becoming eligible – a COVID-19 booster vaccine or have evidence of a booking to receive one, unless they can provide proof of an exemption or are under 18 years old. Residents are not mandated to receive boosters, but it is strongly encouraged by SA Health and Helping Hand provides booster clinics for residents.

This requirement applies to all people entering a residential care home including staff, volunteers, visitors, contractors, and medical/health practitioners.

This is required under the Emergency Management (Residential Aged Care Facilities No 45) (COVID-19) Direction 2022 issued on January 7 which takes effect at 12.01am on 29 January 2022.

In mid-January 2022, the State Government changed the rules to allow boosters three months after the second vaccination dose, down from four months.

If you are eligible for a booster, you need to provide proof of your booster vaccination, or a booking to receive one, before you will be able to visit. If you are not yet eligible for your booster you can still visit.

Boosters are required even if you have had COVID-19 – SA Health advice is to proceed with your booster when it is due once you have recovered from the acute illness associated with COVID-19 and have finished quarantine.

The Department of Health has provided the advice that from 1 June 2021 the flu vaccine will be mandatory for people wanting to visit an aged care facility. This is because:

  • with COVID-19 spread across Australia, it is more important than ever to receive your flu vaccination – the last thing we want to see is people infected with both influenza and COVID-19.
  • flu vaccinations will help reduce the strain on the healthcare system as it deals with COVID-19.