Two cups of coffee on a wooden table background, text says "Why should seniors need to justify going out?"

Do you ever wonder what Donna and I discuss apart from projects we're working on? Here’s an example:

Carrie: Mum called me yesterday, she’d had to go out to the Telstra shop to sort out her new internet account. Fair enough, she felt it was easier and faster than trying to explain what was happening over the phone. Then she called me again from the coffee shop. “I got the internet issue fixed, now I’m having a coffee and doughnut at the café – it’s okay, they are cleaning the tables down all the time and have hand sanitiser out, and everyone is socially distancing.” She knew she had to get that in before I started cautioning her about being out.

Donna: Yes, my mum was out again playing golf with her friends. She says they’re all doing the social distancing thing, using their own golf buggies and she only plays with a handful of other seniors. She also noted that the golf club has hand sanitiser out for everyone to use.

We laugh and say things like, “no hope keeping them at home, they’ll go and do what they want anyway!”

But then again, why shouldn’t our mothers be out? When did the tables turn and our seniors started needing to justify going out?

As the concerned daughters and sons of active seniors, of course we want to ensure their safety and wellbeing – especially at this time when they are more vulnerable. Not only do we have the coronavirus running rampant around the world (thankfully not so much over here in Australia or New Zealand), but we’re coming into winter and the Flu season, a time that is traditionally harder for our seniors.

But we sometimes need to take a step back and remember that the seniors in our communities and those we care for have been looking after themselves and making choices for many years.

Just because someone reaches a certain age doesn’t mean that they lose that right. That’s Dignity of Risk.

And Dignity of Risk is something that we as individuals and service providers need to keep at the forefront of our minds as we continue to support seniors during the pandemic. While we encourage them to take up the opportunity to do things differently, to embrace new technology such as internet banking and shopping, catch up over Facetime or Zoom, ultimately it’s their choice whether they take up those options or not.

As we move into the next phase of the COVID-19 response, we need to consider what we can do to support seniors in continuing to live their lives safely but fully. While some people will choose to stay at home as much as possible and only go out in their immediate local area, minimising their contact with others, some people will want to return to more normal patterns of activities, and as service providers we need to meet people where they are at.

Where people wish to participate in activities and they understand the risks involved, we should be vigilant but not put blocks in their way by being overly cautious simply because we are concerned about our duty of care. Yes, we acknowledge our duty of care to clients, but it’s not our right to control their actions or decisions, but rather to help by providing support and information so they can make ‘informed choices about their care and services, and live the life they choose.' If this sounds familiar, it should – this is the essence of Aged Care Standard One (Consumer Dignity and Choice).

And if you missed the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission Bulletin that went out this Thursday, the first of the new COVID-19 Storyboards we have been working on with the Commission are now up!

You and your team may find the ‘Social and Physical Distancing – Keeping Safe’ story helpful to promote to your clients and community more broadly.

We hope these insights and examples from our own backyard, so to speak, have been helpful.

If you can think of someone else who might benefit from this article, send them a link. We’d appreciate it! And if you’re looking for more helpful resources, why not check out our Total Quality Package resource hub? We have culturally appropriate, tailored resources that are designed to make your job simpler and help you provide quality care to your clients. Click here to find out more.

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Donna Cross & Carrie Akhurst
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