By Nicholas Holt
Queensland Government has mobilised a Care Army of professionals and volunteers to provide support to senior citizens, as the number of COVID-19 cases in the state approaches 800.
Premier Anastasia Palaszczuk warned Queenslanders today (1/4) that the risk of serious illness increases with age, and said her army would provide support and assistance to one million seniors throughout the state.
“Queensland’s community spirit always shines through in times of crisis, as it did when the Mud Army went into action after the 2011 floods,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
“The Care Army may operate differently because of health and safety restrictions, but the spirit and effect remain the same.”
The Premier continued to urge Queenslanders to stay at home, especially those in the “higher risk category”, saying volunteers and family members could help alleviate the burdens of others.
“Many seniors will of course be supported by family, but others will need volunteers and community service organisations to help them stay home and stay safe and with things such as food or medicine drops,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
“Even something as simple as a daily telephone call can make a huge difference.
“Older people, particularly those with pre-existing medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease or a weakened immune system are most at risk of serious infection.”
A new COVID-19 Seniors Panel, led by Minister Kate Jones will co-ordinate the Care Army, as well as launching a community awareness campaign about how to help our seniors.
Ms Jones said she had already started working with Queensland Health, community organisations, supermarkets and pharmacies.
“We will scale up care and support services for Queenslanders over 65 years of age with underlying health issues, all Queenslanders aged over 70 and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over the age of 50 with one or more chronic diseases,” Ms Jones said.
Ms Jones reiterated Premier Palaszczuk’s caution, encouraging all seniors to stay in their homes.
“The best place for seniors to be right now is in their own home. Seniors should not be out and about doing errands that someone else can do for them,” Ms Jones said. “It is now up to every single Queenslander to show we care.
“Whether it’s your mother, your grandfather, your next-door neighbour or a friend – we all know a senior in our community who will need us so they can stay safe from infection.
“If you don’t have family or friends in this age group who you can help, we still need you to step up and help those people who will be looking for it and you can do that by contacting our 1800 number (1800 173 349).”
“We’ll give clear advice to family members and friends about how to safely support seniors.”
Ms Jones said Queensland Health had strongly advised Queenslanders to limit their interaction with people who are at a higher risk of COVID-19 – including seniors.
“We are urging Queenslanders to immediately work out a plan with their families and loved ones to ensure seniors have access to essentials without leaving their homes,” she said
“Being isolated from loved ones can be stressful for all of us.
“Switching to a chat over the phone, video call or email rather than visits face to face are recommended to help stop the spread of Coronavirus.
“Grandchildren should not be visiting grandparents who are in the at-risk aged group.
“Instead of driving your grandparent to the shops, get their list and do the grocery shop for them.”
Minister for Disability Services and Seniors, Coralee O’Rourke, said there were a number of practical steps people could take to keep seniors safe during the Coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s not just about food and medicine. We need to keep people engaged during this tough time,” Ms O’Rourke said.
“Pick up the phone and talk to your parents or grandparents. Ask how they’re doing and if they need help.
“Queenslanders have gone through their fair share of floods, fires and cyclones because we’ve taken care of each other. We need to do the same during the coronavirus pandemic.”