Welcome to the OPAN COVID-19 FAQ page. This page contains useful resources developed by other organisations, and answers to common questions regarding COVID-19 and aged care services. We have collected questions asked to the OPAN Information Line, and issues raised to OPAN aged care advocates by older people and their representatives.
Search these FAQs, and if your question has not been answered, please get in touch by clicking the “Ask a Question” button above. You can also look on our Information & Resources page or call the OPAN Information Line on 1800 237 981 6am-10pm (AEDT) seven days per week.
This is a public page intended for older people, their representatives and family. As the situation with COVID-19 is developing rapidly, the information below will be subject to change so please check back to this page regularly for updates. Each question will indicate when it has last been updated.
Getting tested for COVID-19Last updated on October 10th, 2020
When should I get tested for COVID-19?
The criteria for having a COVID-19 test are updated regularly and can differ depending on the State/Territory you live in. For more information on when to get tested, call the Commonwealth Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080. It operates 24 hours a day, 7 days.
Where can I get tested?
Each State and Territory Government has compiled a list of testing locations on their website. Click your State/Territory to find out where you can be tested for COVID-19.
Accessing medications during COVID-19Last updated on October 10th, 2020
Do I need to physically see my GP to get a prescription?
If you choose to physically see your doctor, they can provide you with a paper prescription. But you don’t have to see them. You can ask your GP about a telehealth consultation. If you proceed with this, your GP can send a digital copy of the prescription to your preferred pharmacy.
Do I have to go into the pharmacy to get my medications?
If your doctor sends a digital copy to a particular pharmacy, you must have the prescription filled at that pharmacy. If you prefer, you can continue collecting medicine from your pharmacy in person if you are healthy – remember to practise social distancing if you choose to collect your medicine in person. If there are any repeats on the prescription, the repeats must be kept at that pharmacy. You can contact the pharmacy to arrange the next supply of your medicine when you need it.
If you already have a paper prescription at home, you can ask a friend or family member to fill it at your preferred pharmacy if you are self-isolating. You can also ask your pharmacy if they offer home delivery services for medicines.
Do I need to wear a face mask?Last updated on October 10th, 2020
Face coverings are now compulsory for all Victorians when they leave home, no matter where they live. The advice changes frequently, so monitor the Victorian Government website for updates by visiting: https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/face-coverings-covid-19
New South Wales
Wearing masks is not mandatory in New South Wales. However, the New South Wales Government has strongly recommended wearing a face mask when:
– It is hard to maintain 1.5 metres of social distancing
– When in high-risk indoor areas, such as public transport, ride shares, taxis, supermarkets, shops, places of worship and entertainment venues
– You develop symptoms while you’re away from home
– You’re away from home and notified by NSW Health that you’re a close contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case
– Caring for or serving vulnerable people
– Working in a café, restaurant, pub, club or other high-risk indoor area
NSW Health strongly advises wearing a mask if you’re a vulnerable person, which includes people over 70, and those with a compromised immune system or who have a chronic medical condition.
For more information visit: https://www.nsw.gov.au/covid-19/face-masks
All other States/Territories
Surgical masks in the community are not required in other states and territories at this time (except Victoria), but people who feel vulnerable may choose to wear one as a personal preference. This may be especially so when social distancing cannot be adhered to.
What are the restrictions in my State/Territory?Last updated on October 20th, 2020
Where can I find the restrictions for my State/Territory?
COVID-19 restrictions are different depending on the State/Territory you live in. Health Direct has created an easy-to-use restriction checker which gives information about the restrictions for specific activities in each State/Territory. Access it here: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/covid19-restriction-checker/activity
You can also check the website of your State/Territory Government for a full list of the restrictions there.
- Queensland Restrictions
- New South Wales Restrictions & Health Alerts
- Tasmania Restrictions & Health Alerts
- South Australia Restrictions & Health Alerts
- Northern Territory Restrictions & Health Alerts
- Western Australia Restrictions & Health Alerts
- Australian Capital Territory Restrictions & Health Alerts
- Victoria Restrictions & Health Alerts
Is there any specific advice for older people?
The Australian Government Department of Health also has specific advice for older people (people aged 70 and over, or 65 and over with chronic health conditions or compromised immune systems, or 50 and over for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples). This can be accessed here.
Residential aged care home restrictionsLast updated on October 10th, 2020
Can I have visitors in my aged care home?
During COVID-19, many new and changeable rules to having visitors have been imposed on residential aged care homes. Some of these may relate to:
- the number and length of visits
- who can visit
- where the visits take place (meeting rooms, gardens or in people’s rooms), and
- what protective equipment may be worn.
Some of these restrictions are enforceable rules to protect residents (in case of active COVID-19), some are recommendations to protect residents (where no active COVID is present), and some may be extra restrictions the home has made up themselves which may or may not be fair.
NO COVID in a Residential home – Recommended guidelines for who can and can’t visit a residential aged care home (with no COVID) have been developed to help guide facilities on what types of visits are acceptable during this time. This guide is called the Industry Code for Visiting Residential Aged Care Facilities applies. The Code aims to ensure residents can receive visitors to meet their social needs and to protect their rights as much as possible. If you feel an aged care home isn’t complying with the Code, call the OPAN Advocacy Line on 1800 700 600 to see if an advocate can assist.
A residential home WITH COVID present – Stricter rules (that are enforceable), over and above the Industry Code for Visitation outlined above, are present when there are COVID-19 cases in a residential home. These restrictions may vary between different homes based on the level of the outbreak and the state or territory’s Department of Health rules. For each particular state or territory, see below for the Health Department’s current guidelines. If you feel an aged care home isn’t being fair or meeting a resident’s needs with their restrictions, call the OPAN Advocacy Line on 1800 700 600.
Residential aged care restrictions by State/Territory:
- Victoria: https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/visiting-care-facilities-covid-19
- New South Wales: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/covid-19/Pages/residential-aged-care.aspx
- Queensland: https://www.qld.gov.au/health/conditions/health-alerts/coronavirus-covid-19/current-status/public-health-directions/aged-care
- Australian Capital Territory: https://www.covid19.act.gov.au/stay-safe-and-healthy/aged-care
- Tasmania: https://coronavirus.tas.gov.au/families-community/aged-care-facility-visits
- South Australia: https://www.sahealth.sa.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/public+content/sa+health+internet/conditions/infectious+diseases/covid+2019/covid-19+response/aged+care+facility+visitation+in+south+australia+-+covid-19
- Northern Territory: https://coronavirus.nt.gov.au/stay-safe/advice-care/residential-aged-care
- Western Australia: https://ww2.health.wa.gov.au/Articles/A_E/Coronavirus/COVID19-information-for-Aged-Care-and-Community-Care-Providers
Home care services and packages during COVID-19Last updated on October 10th, 2020
Is it okay to continue receiving services at home during COVID-19?
The Australian Government strongly recommends older Australians continue receiving their home aged care services during COVID-19 to ensure their care needs are met. The aged care worker visiting your home should be taking all necessary measures to ensure you stay safe. If you’d like to know what steps your provider is taking to keep you safe, you can always give them a call to find out, or if you would like an advocate to support you in these enquiries, call the Advocacy Line on 1800 700 600.
Read the Department of Health information sheet about this here: https://www.health.gov.au/resources/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-its-ok-to-have-home-care
Should I cancel my home care services due to COVID-19?
The Australian Government strongly recommends older Australians continue receiving their home aged care services during COVID-19 to ensure their care needs are met. The aged care worker visiting your home should be taking all necessary measures to ensure you stay safe. If you’d like to know what steps your provider is taking to keep you safe, you can always give them a call to find out.
However, if you are considering cancelling, or have already cancelled, your aged care services due to COVID-19, or if your needs have changed during this time, please call the OPAN Advocacy Line on 1800 700 600. An aged care advocate will be able to talk through your options to ensure you receive the care you need.
Should my carers wear masks in my home while providing services?
Personal protective equipment must be worn by your aged care worker if:
- You have been diagnosed with COVID-19
- You are suspected of having COVID-19
- You are displaying symptoms of COVID-19
- You are living in a State/Territory where masks are mandatory
You may choose to wear a mask when people enter your home. You may also prefer to go into a different room while aged care providers are present. Some people may choose to take extra protection measures and wipe down door handles when the person leaves.
What happens if I have no funding left in my Home Care Package?
If you have fully allocated your Home Care Package, you may be eligible for additional aged care services. Call the OPAN Advocacy Line on 1800 700 600 and an aged care advocate can assist.
Social isolation and loneliness during COVID-19Last updated on October 10th, 2020
What can I do if I am / a loved one is feeling lonely or isolated during this time?
COTA and National Seniors are providing a call back service for older people who are lonely or isolated during this time. This free service will provide a connection and can refer you to other services if needed.
- COTA – phone (08) 8310 0019 8:30am-6pm (AEST) Monday-Friday
- National Seniors – phone 1300 887 626 8:30am-6pm (AEST) Monday-Friday
You can also call Friendline, which is staffed by volunteers from the community. This service is for anyone wanting to have a chat about anything and everything. All Friendline chats are casual and anonymous. Phone 1800 424 287 10am-8pm seven days.
Community Visitors Scheme
The Community Visitors Scheme is a free service which arranges for volunteers to visit older people to provide friendship and companionship, and anyone living in a Residential Aged Care Home (regardless of age) or receiving/waitlisted for a home care package is eligible. You can apply for visits through My Aged Care.
Mental Health Services
If you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed during this period, help is available. You can contact the below services for assistance:
– Beyond Blue Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service – 1800 512 348
– Crisis and Suicide Counselling – Lifeline – 13 11 14 (24/7) and www.lifeline.org.au/Get-Help/Online-Services/crisis-chat (online chat available 7pm-midnight)
– MIND Helpline – 24 hours – 1300 554 660
Groceries and shopping during COVID-19Last updated on October 10th, 2020
What support is available for older people struggling to access groceries, etc., during COVID-19?
Shopping and other support services are available for senior Australians during the coronavirus pandemic. These include:
- Prepared meals, food staples and essential daily items are delivered to those who need them through services like Meals on Wheels.
- Major supermarket chains are offering priority shopping via online and phone ordering for senior Australians registered with My Aged Care.
- If you already receive aged care services, you can arrange these services with your provider.
- If you are not registered with My Aged Care and you are 65 years or over, you can call My Aged Care to register. Services can be set up quickly for up to six weeks without the need for an assessment. Call My Aged Care on 1800 200 422.
Please note that major supermarkets are no longer offering early opening hours for seniors or people with a disability.
If you aren’t registered with My Aged Care but you are in crisis, contact the My Aged Care call centre on 1800 200 422 to access an emergency standard supply pack which contains basic food supplies and household items.
For more information on assistance available, read the Australian Government fact sheet about accessing food and meals during COVID-19: https://www.health.gov.au/resources/publications/assistance-with-food-and-meals-for-older-australians-impacted-by-covid-19
Elder abuse and domestic violenceLast updated on October 20th, 2020
Everyone has the right to live in a safe environment, to be treated with dignity and respect and to make their own decisions and choices, regardless of their living conditions.
Older people have the same rights to access the same protections as any other adult.
If an older person is experiencing abuse, there are many people and supports they can turn to, and help is always available.
If you or a loved one is experiencing abuse, you can call the OPAN Advocacy Line on 1800 700 600 and an aged care advocate will assist you. Alternatively, you can contact the Elder Abuse Helpline in your State/Territory directly:
- Queensland: Elder Abuse Prevention Unit (07) 3867 2525.
- New South Wales: NSW Elder Abuse Helpline and Resource Unit 1800 628 221
- ACT: Older Persons ACT Legal Service (OPALS) 02 6243 3436
- Victoria: Seniors Rights Victoria 1300 368 821
- South Australia: Aged Rights Advocacy Service (08) 8232 5377
- Western Australia: Advocare (08) 9479 7566
- Tasmania: Tasmanian Elder Abuse Helpline 1800 441 169
- NT: Darwin Community Legal Service 1800 812 953