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COVID-19 SPECIAL REPORT: Hearts and homes with IdentityWA: protecting the most
With the shadow of COVID-19 hanging over every aspect of people’s lives, IdentityWA has been both timely and resolute in implementing the government’s recommendations to ensure the health and wellbeing of their residents. Photo: Supplied.
By Eric Martin
IdentityWA is a household name in West Australian disability services, with the Catholic agency a beacon of compassion and quality care for some of Perth’s most disadvantaged people, those living with physical or mental disabilities that prevent them from participating independently in society.
And with the shadow of COVID-19 hanging over every aspect of people’s lives, IdentityWA has been both timely and resolute in implementing the government’s recommendations to ensure the health and wellbeing of their residents.
“Overall, the response from families, carers and the people we support has been positive,” said IdentityWA’s CEO, Ms Marina Re.
“From very early in the outbreak, we ensured we communicated with the IdentityWA community that we were following the guidelines of the Federal and State governments and the Department of Health, this consistent messaging has been crucial.
“For some families, the isolation has been quite emotional as they can’t physically touch their loved one, but they do understand it is vital that we all adhere to the strict COVID-19 guidelines and regulations,” she said.
In a Special Edition eNewsletter that was sent out to the IdentityWA community on 17 March 2020, the agency stated that the wellbeing of the people living within their houses was their first priority and issued the following guidelines:
- Group activities, outings and trips were suspended.
- Visits from non-essential external providers were postponed.
- Regular visitors and families of COVID-19 were informed of the new guidelines along with a request that they only undertake essential visits.
- Visitors are recorded on a register of visitors and are asked to comply with official social distancing and hygiene practices.
Further updates were made available on the IdentityWA website, Facebook page as well as by email in additional Special Edition eNewsletters.
“Given the challenge of being in isolation and how it can affect people emotionally, we have worked to provide a variety of additional resources in our houses for housemates to use, including activities and games, arts and craft, the opportunity to access smart technology and the latest offerings in communication,” Marina said.
“The opportunity for people to use communication technology such as FaceTime, Telehealth, Skype and Zoom has been a wonderful success - it is definitely something that will continue to be used in the future.”
IdentityWA’s staff have truly rallied to provide the additional level of support required during the pandemic and to support them, the agency employed additional staff in its houses and provided training in infection control and Personal Protective Equipment, should it be required.
“We are proud of the way our staff have been creative in their approach to supporting the 148 people living in our Shared Independent Living houses,” Marina said.
One of the creative ways that staff have been entertaining residents is through the use of digital technology, in this case, animal pictures bring great joy. Photos: Supplied.
Throughout this time, residents have still been able to access activities outside on a one-on-one basis but Marina reports that everyone at the agency is relieved the restrictions are slowly being lifted and housemates can once again engage in more social interactions.
“We are all looking forward to resuming some sort of normality, even if it is a new normal,” Marina said.
“While the easing of restrictions is welcome, it will be some time before we feel comfortable to relax the routines we have introduced during this time: as mentioned, there will some initiatives which will stay in place as we move on from this pandemic crisis.
“Without a vaccine, we will continue to remain vigilant with personal hygiene and the high quality of cleanliness in our houses.”
This week, Western Australia saw the number of cases of people with COVID-19 stay at 551, with the WA Department of Health reporting no new cases in the last 24 hours, as at 2pm Tuesday 5 May.
Over the past week, there has been an average of 13 new cases reported each day and of those newly reported cases, the majority have been from NSW. This takes the Australian total to 6,825.
According to the Department of Health, of those cases, 95 have died and 5,859 have been reported as recovered from COVID-19.
There are currently just seven confirmed COVID-19 patients in Perth metropolitan hospitals, with three in ICU.
The number of recovered cases in WA is now 528 and to date, 48,153 Western Australians have tested negative for COVID-19.