Information published Thursday 26th of March 2020
These are extremely stressful, anxious and concerning times we find ourselves in. It is so difficult to maintain calm when it feels like the fabric of what you know is in tatters. As we face the first of this type of threat in our generation it is difficult to know what to do and what is going to happen next. As carers supporting people you love who are particularly vulnerable your space is particularly difficult at this time.
I would like you to know that you are not alone in facing this crisis. We will continue to be here with you to lend an ear, provide support and connection and assist where this is possible. Whilst we need to keep physical distance we can still connect socially and help maintain wellbeing. Carers ACT is a family and we are in this with you.
The health and wellbeing of carers and our staff is first and foremost in my mind and the mind of the Board of Carers ACT. Over the past 72 hours as the information from health specialists and the government has evolved, we have been deliberating on the impact for carers and our programs. We have made the heartbreaking decisions at this point to change the way we deliver supports through our Cottage and Hub programs.
From today we will no longer be operating the Cottage as a group-based program for people who are frail aged. Instead we will be offering carers and the participants of the Cottage with one on one support in-home or in safe ways within the community (going for a walk for example).
From today we will also no longer be operating the Hub as a group-based program for people who are living with intellectual disabilities. Instead we will be offering participants and their carers with one on one supports and we will be using technology to enable the participants to continue to connect with each other.
We have also made the decision to close the office building at Holt. From today all of our staff are working from home. The building will not be open to carers or members of the public.
We are continuing to provide support to carers over the phone, email or online. We are continuing to book respite and in-home service supports and provide information and assistance. We are continuing to help you work through the issues and access counselling.
We are looking at a range of ways to provide you with ways to overcome the social isolation you may be experiencing and ways for you to access contact with other carers, education and information. As a starting point we:
- Continue to answer the phone when you need us to be there
- Continue to provide counselling over the phone or video conferencing
- Continue to answer emails
- Continue to book in-home supports and respite
- Have placed information on our website (carersact.org.au) about Coronavirus and supports for carers during this time
- Continue to run online group sessions including more frequent “Online Carer Cake and Chat (BYO Cake!)”. Keep an eye out for the Friday weekly activities email to keep up to date, you can also see upcoming sessions on the events calendar in our website.
We will be placing more and more information on our website and through social media and emails daily. We are searching for links for ways to distract and ways to support. My favourite today and I am watching as I write this is the live webcam of penguins at San Diego Zoo (https://zoo.sandiegozoo.org/cams/penguin-cam)
If you need assistance accessing services, information or technology please let us know.
I encourage you all to keep an eye on our webpage, social media and emails for more updates and information. I encourage you to reach out and make contact with us, even if it is just to say hello. I encourage you to reach out to each other and say hi. You are not alone, I am not alone, we are not alone.
Please take care of yourselves and your family
Information published Thursday 19th of March 2020
Carers ACT would like to assure our clients that we have your safety and well-being at the centre of our practice at all times. In addition to our already high-standard of hygiene practice, we have introduced extraordinary measures at our Head Office, Deakin Cottage and The Hub, to ensure vigilance during this uncertain period. Some of the new measures we have introduced include:
- Implementing Department of Health recommendations for preventing the spread of Coronavirus COVID-19
- Switching from in-person to phone-based services where possible which means that we will ask that you meet with us by telephone or video conference rather than in person
- If you do need to visit our offices for whatever reason, you will notice hand sanitiser stations in the building foyer, at reception, and in our communal spaces
- Social distancing including postponing group activities for carers for the foreseeable future
- Re-training staff to increase awareness and hygiene practice around COVID-19
- Working with our brokered service providers to ensure they are following recommended Department of Health hygiene practices and awareness when visiting clients at home
- Ensuring staff self-isolate for two weeks if they are returning from travel; and
- Escalating the office cleaning regime to ensure tables, desks and other surfaces are wiped down with disinfectant regularly
Should you cancel in-home services?
We are working with our brokered service providers to ensure that they are following Department of Health recommendations around hygiene and working with vulnerable people and we are keeping abreast of any updated recommendations. Our client’s safety is of paramount importance to us and our brokered service providers. We believe that at present, with good hygiene practises in place; it is fine for in-home services to continue. However, it is your choice whether you continue to receive services in your home.
It is important that you ask anyone coming into your home to ensure that they wash or sanitise their hands on arrival.
You should also check with the worker that they do not have any cold or flu-like symptoms. If they do have symptoms, please ask if they have a medical clearance to work. If they do not, please ask them to leave and contact us immediately to advise us of the situation and request a replacement worker.
What is happening with our Cottage and Hub services?
We are following Department of Health recommendations around the operation of these programs and have contacted carers personally by phone or email to explain what we are doing.
The services are still operating at present. However, a number of clients have chosen not to continue attending at this time. We are limiting the numbers attending in an effort to maintain social distancing and a hygienic environment. We are also restricting access to visitors and have arranged for drop-off and pick-up to occur at the entry of the Cottage and Hub.
Importantly, we ask all people to wash or sanitise their hands on arrival, and we ensure that all present wash their hands frequently throughout the day. We also ensure that we practise good coughing & sneezing hygiene.
We check that our workers do not have any cold or flu-like symptoms before they are permitted to work with the clients.
We have cancelled social outings to limit the risk of possible exposure. Hub clients are spending a lot of their time outdoors enjoying the parklands that surround our building.
What is happening with our Carer Group Activities?
We are following recommendations around social distancing, and this has meant that we have cancelled most of our group activities. We are endeavouring to provide some group activities using technology solutions.
What is happening with Counselling?
We are following recommendations around social distancing, and this has meant that we are now only offering counselling sessions over the phone or using Skype.
What is happening with Support Coordination?
The number of face-to-face meetings with NDIS participants is being reduced in line with the Australian Government’s advice in the COVID-19 national health response plan.
Participants, families and carers can request alternatives to face-to-face meetings if participants are concerned about their exposure.
Both scheduled plan reviews and first plan meetings can be completed over the phone, if:
- the participant would prefer not to have a face-to-face meeting
- the participant has recently returned from overseas, or
- the participant has come in contact with someone affected by COVID-19.
What is happening with Advocacy?
Generally, our advocacy support will be limited to phone-based service. We can arrange teleconference meetings with multiple attendees. If required, we will attend in-person crisis meetings. However, we will seek confirmation that all attendees do not have flu-like symptoms or have come into contact with anyone with coronavirus COVID-19 before attending.
How can you help prevent the spread of Coronavirus COVID-19?
Practising good hand and sneeze/cough hygiene and keeping your distance from others is the best defence against most viruses. You should:
- Wash your hands frequently throughout the day with soap and water including before and after eating and after going to the toilet.
- Cover your cough and sneeze. You might choose to cough or sneeze into your elbow or onto a tissue. Dispose of tissues in a sealed bin and wash your hands.
- If unwell, avoid contact with others (stay more than 1.5 metres from people).
- Exercise personal responsibility for social distancing measures.
Lifeline has the following recommendations for managing your health and wellbeing during coronavirus COVID-19
The outbreak of the coronavirus COVID-19 has impacted people in varying ways on an international scale. It is understandable that during times like this, people may be feeling afraid, worried, anxious and overwhelmed by the constantly changing alerts and media coverage regarding the spread of the virus.
While it is important to stay informed, the following are some mental health and well being tips and strategies to continue looking after ourselves and each other during these difficult times.
Manage your exposure to media coverage as this can increase feelings of fear and anxiety. Be mindful of sources of information and ensure you are accessing good quality and accurate information. We have provided some links below.
Follow a “calm yet cautious” approach – do your best to remain calm and be mindful not to contribute to the widespread panic that can hinder efforts to positively manage the outbreak. Ensure you are following directives issued by the Government, medical advice and observe good hygiene habits.
Show compassion and kindness to one another – these times of fear, isolation (both physical and social) and uncertainty are when it is most important that we strengthen our sense of community by connecting with and supporting each other. Remind ourselves that we can manage this much better together in solidarity, and that COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate – it can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, nationality or ethnicity.
Actively manage your well-being by maintaining routines where possible, connect with family and friends (even if not in person), staying physically active, eating nutritious foods and seeking additional support by contacting Lifeline or further professional support as required.
Strategies to cope with social distancing, self-isolation or quarantine
Going into a period of social distancing, self-isolation or quarantine may feel daunting or overwhelming, and can contribute to feelings of helplessness and fear. In addition to the above, we encourage the following;
- Perspective – try to see this time as unique and different, not necessarily bad, even if it something you didn’t necessarily choose
- Connection – think of creative ways to stay connected with others, including social media, email and phone
- Be generous to others – giving to others in times of need not only helps the recipient, it enhances your well being too. Is there a way to help others around you?
- Stay connected with your values. Don’t let fear or anxiety drive your interactions with others. We are all in this together!
- Daily routine – create a routine that prioritises things you enjoy and even things you have been meaning to do but haven’t had enough time. Read that book, watch that show, take up that new hobby.
- Try to see this as a new and unusual period that might even have some benefits.
- Limit your exposure to news and media. Perhaps choose specific times of day when you will get updates, and ensure they are from reputable and reliable sources.
Staying connected through this period
Research after the SARS pandemic in Hong Kong in 2008, provides evidence of the significance of connection through epidemics. It found that residents in Hong Kong experienced increased social connectedness, which offset the negative mental health impacts of the pandemic.
As connection is so important during this time, here are some tips on staying connected to others. Remember – we are all in this together.
If there is someone you think may struggle through social isolation, it is important to reach out to them and let them know you care:
- Call them to check on their welfare
- Send an email
- Leave a note under their door
- Don’t underestimate the power you have to offer hope to another person.
We encourage people to get creative with how they interact; here are some ways to stay connected if self-isolating:
- Set up a gratitude tree – where every member posts a message or sends a text to other members to share something they are grateful for.
- Find a buddy, or group of, to set daily challenges with. These could include a healthy habit, a mindful practice, a creative pursuit. Be sure to encourage and check-in daily to stay motivated.
- Set dates and times to watch the same TV shows/movies with someone and message each other your thoughts along the way… kind of like Goggle Box but you’re not sharing the couch!
- If your local community has one, join its social media group! This will keep you up to date with what’s going on directly around you. It may also include ways you can perhaps reach out and connect with someone less fortunate than you and ways to assist them.
The Lifeline telephone, text and webchat services will continue as normal throughout this period. To contact Lifeline call 13 11 14.
While coronavirus is of concern, it is important to remember that most people displaying symptoms such as cough, sore throat or tiredness are most likely to have a cold or other respiratory illness—not coronavirus.
For the latest advice, information and resources, go to www.health.gov.au
Call the National Coronavirus Help Line on 1800 020 080. It operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you require translating or interpreting services, call 131 450.
If you have concerns about your health, speak to a doctor.
Carers ACT would like to remind all our carers of the importance of looking after your mental health during these difficult times.
For immediate access to a session to reduce stress and contain emotions please call Lifeline or Beyond Blue through the phone numbers below:
- Lifeline: 13 11 14 will continue to be operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
- Lifeline Text 0477 13 11 14 will continue to operate 6pm – midnight (AEDT), 7 nights a week
- Lifeline webchat will continue to operate 7pm – midnight (AEDT), 7 nights a week
- Beyond Blue – 1300 22 4636