Ethnic Communities' Council of NSW 02)93190288

Marc Roppolo
June 5, 2020 – 4:05pm

Adapting to a new aged care world with COVID -19

As the world adapts to the COVID-19 outbreak, traditional methods of delivering Commonwealth funded CHSP services are at a COVID 19 crossroad.

Whilst change can be an unwanted obstacle, aged care service providers are encountering the reality of re-formulating the way in which they serve their culturally and linguistically diverse community. Now more than ever, businesses and organisations have a choice to respond to this pandemic with pessimism or optimism. One organisation that has whole-heartedly leapt into the innovation challenge is Co.As.It. Italian Association of Assistance .

With over 50 years of culturally appropriate services to the Italian community, they have earned the title of a reputable provider in aged care and community support.

Influx of Italian seniors accessing mental health services due to COVID-19

Of the many Co.As.It. services, their mental health therapeutic counselling program was forced to quickly adapt to a significant increase in referrals as part of their COVID-19 health and safety measures. Traditionally conducted in a face-to-face setting, the arrival of the pandemic has remodelled the over-20-year service to comply with new strict distancing restrictions by moving online.

“We were able to anticipate this surge early and transition from face to face counselling to online… counselling, to ensure we met the needs of our clients” says General manager of Co.As.It. Thomas Camporeale.

The now exclusive virtual service, which is also free, has almost doubled from an average of 60 counselling sessions per month to over 115 sessions per month. The sessions have rolled out through various technological platforms such as Skype, WhatsApp and Facetime.

“Of the elderly clients accessing the services… many are presenting with increased depression and anxiety and this is directly related to the limited socialisation with family and friends due to social distancing” says Community Services Manager Maria Angelatos.

Amongst the elderly, younger people are also finding the service valuable, especially Italian nationals on working visas who are now in a period of stagnation and seeking support from Co.As.It. counsellors. The service is accommodating an influx of interest from new clients during the COVID-19 reality.
“At the moment, 70 percent of our new counselling clients are COVID related” Angelatos says.

Conversation in language about COVID -19 is breaking down barriers

The therapeutic counselling service has provided more than just support for clients, but it also inadvertently serves as an effective resource that educates Italian Australians on current news and updates about the pandemic.

“There are more conversations now about COVID. There are more conversations about restrictions and when the Government implements changes to the restrictions… how that’s interpreted, ensuring that clients understand those boundaries” says Angelatos.

In addition to virtual counselling, Co.As.It. has also commenced a welfare service, which extends counselling to provide additional support in the form of follow-up companionship call. The phone calls are also extended to the wider community and to those who previously attended the CHSP service of social support groups. Both initiatives ensure Co.As.It. take a whole of community approach to responding to the pandemic.

Covering all bases – A holistic approach to responding to COVID-19

Ms. Angelatos says these calls are necessary to check in and make sure clients are safe and are coping with the added stress of isolation. The companionship calls can even occasionally result in grocery shopping and collection of medication for those clients most at risk and isolated. “We’re just trying to cover all bases, from mental health to practical support.”

The transition to the online virtual setting is proving effective.

“You know with certain people… virtual won’t phase them, perhaps the younger cohort… [but] with the older community…they’re engaging online and they’re accepting the changes and they’re continuing to reach out” says Angelatos.

Despite the impact that COVID-19 has imposed on our world, in many cases it has illuminated the newfound drive in CHSP services. CALD CHSP providers are demonstrating their flexible and timely ability to adjust their methods of services. They have been able to adapt their delivery and business model to the unexpected changes, and like Co.As.It., remain vigilant that the services prioritise their clients and their safety. 

With all challenges there’s opportunities and this has been a great opportunity

A quote from Ms. Angelatos sums up the drive and motivation oozing from within the organisation:
“With all challenges there’s opportunities and this has been a great opportunity.”

Due to the measurable success of both new services (counselling and companionship), Co.As.It. is now looking at strategies to incorporate COVID-19 learnings and practices into their future business model. There is no plan to cease or revert completely back to previous business models. With both initiatives well received by clients, it is a new era moving forward for Co.As.It., its staff and management.

 

To learn more about Co.As.It., visit their website: https://www.coasit.org.au/