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by George Clark

Calls for elderly safety in South Canterbury are increasing in response to Covid-19.

Age Concern Canterbury chief executive officer Simon Templeton is asking that people plan for self-isolation.

“That’s about talking with family, friends, neighbours about how you will get your needs met,” Mr Templeton said.

The safety of elderly residents and their carers was the highest priority, he said.

“This illness impacts frail older people more than anyone else.

“That is people grouped together in aged residential care

“The message is if you are not 100% do not go and see your elderly relatives.

“Stay away from grandma and granddad.”

It was important people stayed up to date with the latest information, Mr Templeton said.

“The situation is changing hour by hour.

“We still want elderly people to continue to socially connect but ask they understand the situation, take precautions and keep up with new information.”

Covid-19 was particularly hazardous for babies and people over the age of 65.

Age Concern Canterbury was bracing and preparing, he said.

“I think the measures being taken by the Government and health system are really good at this stage.

“I am still hopeful we may be limited to the exposure in comparison to around the world.

“But certainly as an organisation we are planning with councils on how to manage this,” Mr Templeton said.

The biggest challenge would be staffing.

“Really, if we don’t flatten this out and it becomes a spike, the health system that cares for every single one of us will not be able to cope,” he said.

“We are having a meeting with IT companies this week regarding my staff being able to work from home.

“It is the frontline carers that will struggle, and again it is those older people living in their own homes that require home-based providers to deliver care and support to them.

“If that work force is decimated, that is where the challenge will come.”

Presbyterian Support South Canterbury has aged-care facilities The Croft and Margaret Wilson Home in Timaru, and Wallingford Home in Temuka.

The organisation also provides daycare services for elderly citizens.

South Canterbury chief executive officer Carolyn Cooper said Presbyterian Support began restricting visits this week.

The number of access entrances into the homes had been reduced to two doors.

“Anyone who has returned from overseas or who has had contact with someone from overseas is not allowed in our homes,” Ms Cooper said.

“They are asked to call the facility first and the decision around visiting will be on a case-by-case basis.

“We ask all visitors to take heed of our signs at our entrances so that we can protect those most at risk.”

Presbyterian Support was following all directives from the South Canterbury District Health Board and Ministry of Health, she said.

Personal protective equipment was available for staff should it be needed.

The organisation’s pandemic action plan had been approved by the DHB.

All visitors were expected to use hand sanitiser and sign in when entering the homes.

Its staff had been offered the flu vaccination and these would be administered when the vaccine was available.