A Care Army of professionals and volunteers will rally around Queensland’s seniors, while a new telephone hotline is also being launched, to help ensure the wellbeing of older people during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the risk of serious illness from COVID-19 increases with age and the Queensland Government was mobilising the Care Army to protect up to one million seniors.
“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.
“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. 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.”
The government is today expanding the Community Recovery Hotline - a free call on 1800 173 349 - to link seniors and other vulnerable Queenslanders to essential services and support.
Queenslanders wanting to volunteer should also contact 1800 173 349.
A new COVID-19 Seniors Panel, led by Minister Kate Jones reporting directly to the Premier, will co-ordinate the Care Army and launch a community awareness campaign about how to help our seniors with Communities Minister Coralee O’Rourke assisting in the regions.
Ms Jones said she had already started working with Queensland Health, community organisations, supermarkets and pharmacies and would also work closely with Minister O’Rourke.
“When the Premier asked me to do this job I jumped at the chance because it’s so critical,” Ms Jones said.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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 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,” she 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.”
COVID-19 Seniors Panel
Minister Kate Jones (Chair)
Minister Coralee O’Rourke
Council of the Ageing Australia (Queensland) Chief Executive Mark Tucker-Evans
QCOSS Chief Executive Aimee McVeigh
Red Cross Queensland Chief Executive Garry Page
Community Services Industry Association Chief Executive Belinda Drew
Professor Peter Coaldrake AO
Department of Innovation and Tourism Industry Development Director General Damien Walker
Department of Communities Director General Clare O’Connor
Department of Communities Deputy Director General Barb Phillips
Smart Services Queensland Deputy Director General Andrew Spina
For more information: www.covid19.qld.gov.au/carearmy
To volunteer - Community Recovery Hotline: 1800 173 349