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A message to the Benetas community from CEO Sandra Hills OAM

22nd April 2020

The Prime Minister's comments regarding restricted access to residential aged care homes are disappointing and are a cause of confusion, writes Benetas CEO Sandra Hills OAM.

As you are aware, on the 19th of March, Benetas restricted access to its residential homes to only essential visitors. That is, employees, health care providers such as GPs and physios, hospitality service providers such as catering, cleaning and linen staff, and urgent and essential property maintenance.

This was an extremely difficult decision to make and we are fully aware of the effect that this has on the people we look after in our homes, and their families and friends.

However, this decision was made due to the fact that, as we know, older people are extremely vulnerable to the Coronavirus, with serious health risks and even death associated with the disease. We need to balance the potential risk of infection with the quality of life for our residents which is also extremely important.

Thankfully, our decision has been strongly supported by most of our residents and their family members as they know we are seeking to make the very best decision we can for their health and safety. And we have seen many other Victorian providers also implement these restrictions.

I am therefore disappointed by the comments made by the Prime Minister in his press conference yesterday (21/04/2020) regarding it being safe for providers to allow close friends and families in for visits.

These comments cause a lot of confusion and, I believe, are made without a full understanding of the consequences of his words. The Prime Minister was focused on quality of life for residents which I understand, however the challenge comes when you try and balance this with the risk of infection and its potentially disastrous consequences for the very people who are most at risk in our community.

The answer is not straight forward. The decisions we make will be based on careful consideration and advice, and will not be reactive. This is why we are committed to maintaining the current arrangements until the 11th of May in the first instance.

Please understand that we do however want this to occur as soon as it can. We want to see families and friends returning to visit their loved ones as soon as it is safe for them to do so.

In the meantime, we are working hard to ensure that our residents and their families and friends remain connected and engaged throughout this period.

For example, we have significantly increased the number of devices in our homes to allow for video calls, have increased the bandwidth as required, have introduced tailored additional activities for our residents and we continue to provide them with support through our Pastoral Care Practitioners.

Our residents are receiving many cards, paintings and gifts delivered by the local community and we have passed on over 350 messages from families and friends via our new online ‘Virtual Hug’ tool accessed through the Benetas web-site.

Pleasingly we have also noticed in some of our homes that our residents are striking up new friendships with other residents and creating their own new social networks, as they look out for each other in this current restricted environment.

It is also important to also understand that if any family members whose loved one is receiving end of life care, will still be welcome in our homes. However we do ask that only two visitors attend at a time, the visit is confined to the resident’s room and families will be temperature tested on arrival.

Please be assured, we will lift the measures as restrictions ease but will do it with caution and care. We are currently exploring what this means and will continue to keep people informed.

And as with everyone in this situation, we can’t wait for the day when the risk is eliminated and families can come together again.

Yours sincerely

Sandra Hills OAM

CEO Benetas