The risk of serious illness from coronavirus (COVID-19) increases with age.
To protect older Australians and those with compromised immune systems, we all need to work together to help stop the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).
We also need to be particularly sensitive with people living with dementia or where there is a limited capacity to communicate verbally or express pain and discomfort.
Their ability to follow instruction or to alert others about potential symptoms may be challenging. In this situation, observation by someone who knows the person may assist in identifying changes in their health.
Everyone has a responsibility to take steps to prevent the spread of this virus.
Good hygiene and taking care when interacting with other people are the best defences for you and your family against coronavirus (COVID-19).
- covering your coughs and sneezes with your elbow or a tissue
- disposing of tissues immediately after use into a dedicated waste bin and washing your hands
- washing your hands often with soap and water, including before and after eating and after going to the toilet, and when you have been out to shops or other places
- using alcohol-based hand sanitisers, where available
- cleaning and disinfecting surfaces you have touched
- where possible, staying 1.5 metres away from other people - an example of “social distancing”
- if you are sick, avoiding contact with others.
If you start to feel unwell, call your GP, who will be able to provide you with further advice, or call the National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080.
You can seek medical support from your GP through bulk-billed telehealth (videolink) and telephone services if you:
- are aged over 70 or
- are aged over 50 and are an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person or
- have a chronic condition.
Examples of possible video applications include FaceTime and Skype.
Medical practitioners must be satisfied that the services they use to video link with their patients meet current standards and laws regarding privacy and information security.
Can I go to the shops or catch the bus, or should I stay in my own home?
Only people diagnosed with, or exposed to, coronavirus (COVID-19) and those returning from overseas are required to self-isolate in their homes.
Are other vaccinations important?
It is very important that you reduce your risk of getting other illnesses while coronavirus (COVID-19) remains in our community.
There is no vaccine for coronavirus (COVID-19). However, it is important that you get the 2020 flu vaccination as soon as it is available from your GP or pharmacy.
Discuss with your doctor whether you should have a pneumococcal vaccination against pneumonia, which is recommended for everyone over 65. You should also discuss having a shingles vaccination.
What if I need urgent assistance that can't be provided by my current carer?
You can access short term home support services (such as meals or personal care) in an emergency without having had an aged care assessment.
Assessments can also be conducted using telehealth rather than face-to-face where appropriate.
Speak with your home care provider about these measures.
Find out how you can access health support from home.
Can I still have contact with friends and family?
The Australian Government is advising everyone to practise “social distancing”, which means less contact between you and other people to help slow the spread of the disease.
If you are over 60 years old, you should consider limiting physical contact with other people, especially young children, and avoiding large groups of people.
You may wish to limit your visitors to one or two people per day, and limit the duration of visits.
This will help protect you and help stop the spread of disease.
It’s possible that children and young people may be carriers of coronavirus (COVID-19) but show no symptoms, making it extremely difficult to tell if it’s safe for them to visit an older relative.
These measures may be very distressing for you and your loved ones.
A chat over the phone, video call or email - rather than visits in person – is a good precaution and could help stop the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).
Should I continue to visit older friends and relatives?
It is important to keep up-to-date with and follow Australian Government advice.
For the latest advice and information, go to the Australian Government's Department of Health website.
If visiting older family and friends is not possible, keep in touch via phone and video calls, send postcards, photos or artwork, or film short videos to share.
This will limit your exposure to coronavirus (COVID-19) and your chances of accidentally spreading it to other older people in your life.
If you regularly visit someone living with a cognitive impairment, considering other ways of maintaining social contact will help reassure individuals who may feel anxious about possible changes to their day to day life.
You can also contact the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500.
If you have returned from overseas, or live with someone who has returned from overseas, you must stay at home for 14 days.
You can’t visit people and they can’t visit you, but you can stay in touch by phone, video call or online.
How can your family and friends help you and other older people?
Regularly check in with older friends or relatives, and see how you might help.
A simple trip to the supermarket or pharmacy on their behalf is a practical way to help older people who may not be able to go on their own.
Continued and regular communication will be important. Assist older people to keep in communication with friends and family by enabling them to use mobile phones, video call systems such as Skype or FaceTime.
If you are regularly in contact with a person living with dementia, maintaining that routine as much as possible is important.
If events or activities are cancelled, try to provide alternative engagement within the home.
There are many activity ideas on Dementia Australia’s website.
Should I be wearing a mask?
Only people who have a confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19) are required for wear surgical masks, and only when you are around other people.
If you are well, you do not need to wear a surgical mask.
Specific requirements are in place for people who have returned from overseas, or have been in close contact with a confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19).
If you are required to self-isolate, you should use a surgical mask (if you have one) in the following circumstances:
- you need to leave your home for any reason and will be in public areas
- you are visiting a medical facility
- you have symptoms and other people are present in the same room as you.
Can I get help if I can’t buy things at my local shops?
Some supermarkets have special arrangements for older people.
Please contact your local supermarket directly for more information.
For more advice on grocery shopping, go to the COTA website.
I received an email/ SMS / phone call about COVID-19 from someone I don’t trust – is it a scam?
Unfortunately, there have been multiple reports of scams related to coronavirus (COVID-19).
For the most accurate and up-to-date information on coronavirus (COVID-19), please rely on Australian Government material.
If you receive communication that you think may be a scam, you should:
- delete the messages
- do not open any attachments
- do not click on any links.
If you think someone may have accessed your financial information, contact your bank immediately.
If you have concerns about your health, speak to your doctor.
- for the latest advice, information and resources, go to the Australian Government's Department of Health website or healthdirect website
- find your state or territory public health agency on the Australian Government's Department of Health website
- call the National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080 - available 24 hours a day, seven days a week
- for translating or interpreting services, call 131 450
- find your state or territory COTA representative on the COTA website.