Attitudes to aged care are changing with COVID-19, particularly in Australia, where there is a heated debate around senior care during the pandemic. Australian surveys show that a significant number of people are looking for alternatives to residential aged care for their loved ones.
49 percent of the Australian adult population do not believe the Government is doing enough to ensure aged care providers are protecting residents from COVID-19
Over half of those surveyed who have a family member in aged care are considering removing them from aged care facilities and while two in three say this would be only temporary while Coronavirus was a threat, one in three said that it would probably be a permanent move.
Staggeringly 60 percent who had been looking at aged care facilities in the next two to five years said that they would either delay the move into village life/aged care or try to avoid it altogether and find another solution.
While the infection levels and deaths in aged care facilities in New Zealand have drawn public outcry and investigation from the Ministry of Health, the impact on the industry should not be underestimated. The changes to infection control protocols, availability of PPE, staff training and planning around access to residents by visitors and family members will, in turn, impact the future design of residential care facilities.
There is still a lot of work to be done around understanding the impact of Coronavirus and how long the pandemic will be with us, the search for a vaccine will by all accounts take years rather than months.
The question is how residential care will change in the short and long term in a post-COVID-19 environment. Everyone agrees that we were overdue for a pandemic and that COVID-19 will not be the last. Therefore, a re-think of the aged care model is being discussed in boardrooms across the world, not only here in New Zealand.
The thinking around more creative and innovative ways in which care facilities can support residents and their families, securing their safety and wellbeing needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.
Coronavirus has drawn public and industry attention to the problem areas, given impetus to effect change and drive private and public conversations.
Short term solutions are not the answer, the industry has changed and those that do not move to be involved in the conversation will be left behind.