Nursing Team Manager, Michelle Neill

Our nurses and personal care workers were run off their feet with a flurry of new patients discharged from hospital at the onset of the restrictions around corona virus. Then things quietened down.

Our Nursing Team Manager, Michele Neil, believes numbers of doctors’ appointments and pathology tests have gone down by about half since the virus hit because people are avoiding going out – and this worries her.

“We’re concerned that people are not coming to our attention because they’re not taking themselves to GPs nor to accident and emergency departments. So we’re (extremely) worried that people’s health conditions will deteriorate as a result,” says Michele.

Michele warns that people need to keep up regular GP visits and pathology tests, to monitor and observe their health and get professional assistance as needed – or problems are likely to worsen.

“We’re also not getting the usual referrals from people who have fallen. If people are not presenting to hospital, then not attending to the cause of fall – it’s likely to happen again,” says Michele.

“Don’t let things that are mild become severe. Do observe your health and if there is anything at all you are worried about, get yourself to a doctor or to a hospital’s accident and emergency department if you’ve had an accident. Otherwise you might face worse problems.”

Ignoring health conditions has a much higher likelihood of causing serious health problems than of catching Covid-19 at the GP or accident and emergency department.

Typical health issues likely to cause problems if professional advice is not sought include –

  • Heart problems – can easily be exacerbated by lack of attention. People who are normally a little short of breath might be getting worse and either not doing anything about it or self-medicating. Also staying at home and not exercising can hide increased breathlessness or subtle weight gains.
  • Skin tears and fall injuries which people might dress themselves –  can easily become infected if not done properly.
  • Lack of mobility –  will just worsen, whereas a nurse would assess a patient and organise whatever’s needed, perhaps arranging an occupational therapist and home modifications.
  • Poor monitoring of diabetes and other chronic conditions – could easily worsen their symptoms.
  • Cognitive impairment – families not taking people to be assessed by a professional will miss out on early intervention that’s needed. Cognitive decline can worsen when older people isolated in their homes and with their routine disrupted might not adjust to family not visiting during virus restrictions.

These days our nursing team, which looks after frail people on the north shore from Milson’s Point to Roseville, always wear masks and gloves and put on a gown when dressing injuries or doing personal care.

“Our regular, ongoing clients were initially anxious when the virus restrictions started but that’s decreased as things have become more ‘normal’,” says Michele.

Telehealth is an option for people with good hearing but first talk to your regular GP about whether care should be via telehealth or face to face. It works for people who have reasonably good hearing and are comfortable using their phone or computer with video-conferencing apps such as FaceTime, to connect with GPs and other health care workers.

See more about Sydney Community Services’ in-home nursing service here