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World What it's like living in a Melbourne nursing home with a coronavirus outbreak

23:52  14 july  2020
23:52  14 july  2020 Source:   abc.net.au

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a man wearing glasses and looking at the camera: Nigel Hart, 46, is a resident in Glendale Aged Care. (Facebook: Nigel Hart) © Provided by ABC Health Nigel Hart, 46, is a resident in Glendale Aged Care. (Facebook: Nigel Hart)

Nigel Hart has had 15 heart attacks, his kidneys do not work and he is blind in one eye. He is also living inside a nursing home with a COVID-19 outbreak.

The 46-year-old is unable to walk and has severe complications from Type 1 diabetes, which means he needs full-time care.

He is one of the residents of Glendale Aged Care in Werribee, Melbourne, where there have been 13 cases of COVID-19 among residents and staff.

Mr Hart has witnessed firsthand how the nursing home has been dealing with the outbreak.

While many nursing home residents struggle with memory loss and dementia, he is in a position to let the outside world know what many elderly residents, who are his neighbours, have been going through.

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The former Crown Casino croupier has been in lockdown for four months.

Residents were initially restricted to the building but since the positive COVID-19 cases, they have now been confined to their rooms.

"It is frustrating, but I do understand why they are doing this," Mr Hart said.

"On Sunday, when I heard about the 13 cases, I cried a few times that day, I will admit.

"Even though I don't get out of my room much, I'm scared."

Last week, 90-year-old Alf Jordan died in hospital after contracting the virus at the home.

"He lived on the other side of the building from where I live, but I feel for him and his family," Mr Hart said.

"I hope no-one else gets really sick."

'I'm willing to fight'

Mr Hart said all staff were wearing full personal protective equipment including gloves, gowns and masks but he worried whether it would be enough.

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"I don't think they could have done much else," he said.

"I think they have done a good job, although we do have 13 cases now."

He was tested last week for COVID-19 and it came back negative, but he has been told there will be many more tests to come.

"Yesterday, when I came back home from dialysis, we had at least 20 health officials here and they were testing everyone again. We don't know the results yet," he said.

"They told me they will be back next week to test us again because that's what the government want."

Mr Hart is also one of the few people allowed to leave to go to the hospital three times a week for dialysis.

Without it, he would die and staff have to follow strict protocols when he is taken to hospital.

"The last few days, breakfast and lunch has been a little bit late," he said.

"But we're still getting our food, still getting help with showers or washes."

He said he "can't fault" the care being provided by the home but said he was not impressed with the level of communication to residents and families.

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"The only way I've been finding out about the cases and everything is through the news," he said.

"I am annoyed about that because I feel with so many cases breaking out here, we should have a right to know what's going on in our own home."

In a statement, Glendale Aged Care said they had been communicating daily with residents and their families.

Glendale's director of operations Glenn Hancock said the COVID-19 infections in Melbourne had been a "major concern for everyone who lives or works in aged care".

"The situation is evolving quickly, and we understand that residents and families are keen for real-time information about what's happening in the home," Mr Hancock said.

"Over the last week, we have provided daily updates to all residents, their nominated representatives and staff, to try and keep everyone well informed.

"We understand that some families want more detailed information. In response to that feedback, from today we will be making daily phone calls to all nominated family representatives, and we have set up a COVID enquiry line to help answer general questions about infection control procedures at the home."

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Mr Hart has been able to talk to friends and family via Zoom and the telephone, but he said after four months it was the mental impact of little or no human contact that was starting to wear him down.

"I miss seeing my friends and I can't wait until this is over," he said.

"Everything I've been through in the past the past five years, with the heart surgery, they said I should have died, but I didn't.

"This is another fight but I'm willing to fight."

Families worry about loved ones inside home

Teagan Burns' grandmother Olivia Vick has been in Glendale Aged Care since last year after dementia started to take hold.

The mother and grandmother had been having daily visits from her one of her three children or seven grandchildren. But when the COVID-19 cases emerged, the visits were cancelled.

"Because of the dementia, Nan has progressed quite quickly down the spectrum and cognitively, they deemed visits once a day essential," Ms Burns said.

"The message just said, 'We've had one positive case.' So we didn't know how close these people had been to Nan, if it's in the same wing or anything like that."

Mrs Vick has tested negative for COVID-19 and her family is trying to have her removed from the home so they can ensure she does not contract the virus.

"It's really unsettling when you've got a loved one in care," Ms Burns said.

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"Originally, they said no, but we've pushed a little harder and they said that if she is going to be removed, she needs to be tested.

"It's really frustrating. It would be for anyone.

"We're not confident that she may recognise us when we do get to see her again."

Ms Burns said the 86-year-old's nurses were lovely and had facilitated Zoom calls, but because of her grandmother's other ailments, the family feared it was not enough.

"By the time that she is sort of getting back to herself again, then the Zoom call has ended," Ms Burns said.

"We'd definitely love to be getting more updates. But I think it's really difficult with [the] number of people that are living there.

"We really miss her joy, her spirit and really hope that we can get her laughing again."

Glendale Aged Care said sometimes decisions regarding removing residents in a pandemic was a Public Health Unit decision that was out of their control, but they worked closely with families where possible.

Mr Hancock said Glendale could now "support families to request social leave in a safe manner".

"During an outbreak, the decision to leave, or take someone out of the home is a matter of public health, which means the decision is usually taken in consultation with the state and federal health authorities," he said.

'We weren't thinking COVID was going to take him'

One family at Glendale has already paid the highest price from the COVID-19 outbreak.

Alf Jordan, 90, died in hospital on Friday after getting the virus at the home.

His granddaughter Gabrielle Cordwell has been speaking publicly about losing her grandfather because she wants people to understand just how serious COVID-19 can be.

"It's a really sad time for us as we didn't really get a chance as a family to say goodbye," she said.

"We certainly weren't thinking that COVID was going to take him."

She has a message for the public.

"We just want no one to have to go through what we've had to go through as a family," she said.

"Make sure you social distance, use sanitiser and save lives. We'll manage this together."

Watch this story on 7.30 tonight.

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