Victorian LGBTIQ advocates are extremely concerned for the welfare of older LGBTI Victorians in aged care or self-isolation during the state’s COVID-19 lockdown.
Numbers of Victorians in aged care with COVID-19 reached 1186 on Tuesday (August 4), with outbreaks in at least 100 facilities.
Switchboard Victoria provide peer support to LGBTI people including seniors through their Out & About program.
CEO Joe Ball warned older LGBTI Victorians in residential aged care were now in “an almost impossible situation”.
“We have heard of people being unable to leave their rooms for days or weeks and unable to receive visits due to their facility being in lockdown,” Ball said.
“Others are being left without adequate means of confidential communication with friends and advocates.
“[This means] they have no access to external advocacy, monitoring or support regarding the quality of service they need.”
Ball said they’re concerned LGBTI seniors “with links to chosen family – rather than biological family – may not be given access to life-affirming visits from someone within their own community.”
“These connections are not as seen as valid or important as biological families,” they explained.
“Yet some LGBTI seniors in particular have no connection to their family of origin due to homophobic or transphobic rejection.
“[However] some residential aged care facilities have also sought to restrict access to community visitors.”
These included volunteers from Switchboard’s nationally-funded Out & About program, Ball said.
LGBTIQ seniors ‘locked in rooms’ after doctor visits
Joe Ball said aged care staff had put some service users into lockdown without adequate communication.
Ball claimed staff are also “arbitrarily locking aged care residents in their rooms arbitrarily for days or weeks after legitimate outings such as seeing a doctor.”
One Melbourne man aged in his 70s told Switchboard staff treated him like a “prisoner” who they “punished for an unknown time for seeing their health provider.”
Ball said COVID-19 isolation was particularly difficult for LGBTI people living with dementia, those unable to use phone or email and people who speak another language than English.
Many were unable to access LGBTI community and culturally safe supports.
This week the Victorian government introduced “stage four” restrictions to curb community transmission across Melbourne.
These include strict stay-at-home orders and nightly curfews for Melburnians.
Ball said it was “a very difficult and anxious time” for LGBTI people, particularly older people.
“They’re more isolated and vulnerable than ever before,” they said.
“Victorian illness, death and hotspot data is constantly in the media. It’s also very clearly focused on older people and those in residential aged care.”
Ball said Switchboard Victoria’s Out & About program offers peer visits to reduce social isolation and loneliness.
They said many of the program’s seniors are struggling emotionally without the social contact during the pandemic.
The Out & About volunteers have replaced the face-to-face visits with phone calls, letters, cards and online visits where possible.
Last week, Switchboard staff and volunteers sent special care packages to all the LGBTI participants with messages of support.
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