Members of the community are being reminded to respected the wishes of the elderly.
Members of the community are being reminded to respected the wishes of the elderly.

‘Older people have rights’: Worry over Covid vaccine consent

Calls are being made to ensure older people are consulted appropriately about taking up the Covid-19 vaccine.

The Older Person's Advocacy Network (OPAN) is concerned at public discussion of the need for family members to give consent to Covid-19 vaccination, saying that informed consent of the older person themselves is always required.

OPAN CEO Craig Gear said it was important for families, health professionals and aged care providers to understand informed consent.

"Older people have the same rights as everyone else," he said.

"Stigma or age discrimination can't be allowed to diminish rights to control our own bodies."

Mr Gear said legal power over an older person was not an absolute power.

"The role of a medical power of attorney or enduring guardian is a privileged one and means you must act in line with the wishes and preferences of the older person," he said.

" It is only necessary in specific circumstances and the assumption should always be that the older person themselves will provide consent.

"Every effort must be made to have a conversation with older people and residents in aged care, even when a person is living with dementia.

"Consent is not a binary function - even people with some cognitive impairment can be involved in decisions about their care and vaccination decisions."

Mr Gear said there could be a tendency to disregard older people's wishes.

"It is critical that we don't fall into the trap of talking about older people instead of directly to them," he said.

"Aged care providers are used to annual immunisation for the flu and obtaining consent, and we encourage continued good practice of engaging older people with the decision-making process as occurs with other vaccines."

OPAN will host a free webinar on older people and vaccine consent on Tuesday, to find out more, go here.