Q&A with Amanda
Have you heard about the Older Persons COVID-19 Helpline? Some of our staff have been working on the helpline, helping elderly Australians everyday. Here we interview Amanda, our helpline supervisor.
COTA and COTA Insurance staff have been working on the older persons COVID Helpline along with staff from Dementia Australia, National Seniors Australia and the Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN).
Here we interview our COTA Team Leader Amanda on her work on the Older Persons COVID Helpline.
Q. Why and how was the Older Persons COVID Helpline created?
A. COTA Australia saw a need for a separate helpline for the specific issues older Australians face during a situation such as COVID, staffed with people experienced in talking to this cohort. They advocated to the Department of Health on behalf of all older Australians and their families and as a result funding was approved for the line.
Q. Can you tell us how the helpline can help older people?
A. Many older people are not digitally connected and often those find it difficult to find the information they seek. We look up the information for them and help them understand what it means for them.
We know which specialised organisations to refer callers on to, such as OPAN (Older Person’s Advocacy Network).
All the feedback we receive is taken into account when COTA Australia advocates to the Australian Government on behalf of older people.
Q. What other services can you offer?
A. We can do regular well-being checks as often as required where we agree the best days and times to call and have a chat and try to address any concerns. Many older Australians are in isolation due to COVID and welcome a call from the same consultant on a regular basis. I myself, have three people that I call regularly and we are becoming great phone-friends.
We listen to a caller’s concern and then access the information to make the restrictions clearer for them and their situation.
Some people just want to speak to someone because they are anxious about themselves, their friends or family. We lend a sympathetic ear and offer any help or referrals that we can.
Q. What is the best part of working on the Older Persons Support Line?
A. We get a chance to connect and engage with people who come to us stressed, anxious and confused and they generally finish the call in a much better place, with the information and assurances that they need.
We love speaking to our callers and we will spend as much time as is needed with them.
My team and myself love helping older Australians and, according to the feedback, they find it a very positive experience as well.
Q. What is the most common request from the elderly?
A. There isn’t one overall. The type of questions change according to the status in a particular area at any one time.
The latest Stage 4 restrictions in Victoria have resulted in a lot of calls about concern for older relatives living by themselves. Previously, we had lots of calls regarding various Residential Aged Care Facilities and their visitor restrictions.
COTA Australia worked with Government and aged care providers to establish an Aged Care Visiting Code with the aim of regulating visiting rules. It was great to know that feedback from the Helpline helped in this process.
Q. Do you have an example of how the helpline has assisted an older person?
A. We have helped quite a few aged care residents and their families arrange visits that were being declined by the provider or offered at impractical times. The callers were understandably distraught and did not know where to go for help. We put them in contact with OPAN for a local advocate to take up their cases. In most of our referrals, OPAN has achieved a positive result, brought families together, safely.
Q. What is your advice to the elderly that are thinking about calling?
A. What are you waiting for? You are the reason we are here. We love to chat and love to help. You may even make a phone-friend. 😊