Wintertime can be challenging for many people, especially during this socially distant time. Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, many family members were separated for the holidays and were not able to participate in their usual family traditions. It is so important to check in with your mental health and make extra efforts to connect with loved ones. Cold, snowy weather has even made outdoor dining and activities hard to find.
You may drive by a hospital or see a sign on someone’s lawn that proudly exclaims, “Heroes work here!” or “Thank you to our healthcare workers!” These are wonderful sentiments and ones we certainly echo and appreciate. This is why we need to ask ourselves, “Who will care for the caregivers?”
Telehealth for Your Mental Health
Let’s face it – 2020 has been a bad year for mental health. Not only have our lives been upended by a deadly pandemic, one of the best ways to cope with the mental backlash has been affected as well. Attending therapy can be beneficial in many ways; however, during these challenging times therapy can provide additional support. Thankfully, telehealth is quickly becoming the new and accepted alternative to traditional as opposed to in-person therapy.
With the rise of secure streaming technologies, we can meet with our therapist while staying safe in the comfort of our own homes. Still, this can be different and sometimes require us to make adjustments if we’re going to get the most out of our telehealth sessions. Here are some tips to help make this transition a little easier:
- Check to see if you have access to the right technology for your appointment. Different providers have different platforms they’re using to administer telehealth sessions. Do you need a computer? A microphone? A broadband internet connection? Speak with your provider beforehand and ensure you have the equipment you need to speak with your therapist.
- If you don’t live alone, finding a private place for your appointment can be difficult. You want to make sure others in your home cannot overhear your conversations. Ensure those you live with know you are having an appointment and ask them to respect your privacy by staying away from the room where you are having your session. Utilizing earbuds or headphones with a microphone attachment can be helpful for this as well. You won’t have to speak as loudly and you’ll be the only one who can hear your therapist. You can ask your housemates to put on headphones during this time as well (ask them to catch up on their latest podcast or listen to some music)
- Try to minimize distractions during your session. Turn off your phone, email, and any other notifications that could pop up during your appointment. Maximize the chat window so you don’t see anything on your desktop that could catch your attention. Also, remember to clear your physical space as well. Maybe leave yourself one thing to fidget with if that keeps you focused, but otherwise try to keep your space clear and clean so you can focus on your session.
- Since you are not “commuting” to and from your therapist’s office, allow time to decompress after your session. Sometimes that commute allows for a recovery time we don’t often consider, with that buffer removed from your therapy routine, you need to make time for a transition. Allow yourself 10 minutes after your session to listen to music, stretch, or do some yoga prior to return to normal household activities.
- Not commuting to therapy also allows individuals a greater chance of keeping therapy appointments because there are fewer obstacles to overcome. However, don’t allow these appointments to catch you off-guard just because of their convenience. There are still often penalties for missing an appointment. Set a reminder on your phone for a few minutes before the appointment to ensure you’re on time and prepared. The more you do this, the more of a habit it will become.
Remote Counseling Works!
We hope you are able to use these tips to make the most of your next telehealth therapy appointment. It’s incredibly important to take some time to nurture your mental health during this time of isolation and uncertainty. We hope you’ll take advantage of telehealth counseling, but there are also steps you can take to provide self-care. We encourage you to read up on our tips on how to stay “mental healthy” during the pandemic. Easterseals offers telehealth accommodations for some services so if you’re interested, please visit our website and let us know how we can help.
Do you have any other advice on how to make the most of telehealth appointments? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Know Your Voting Rights
The election is right around the corner, taking place on Tuesday, November 3. At Easterseals New Jersey, we want voting to be as easy and accessible an experience as possible. That’s why we have put together a list of five things voters with disabilities need to know about their voting rights, how they can vote, and where to turn should they have any questions.
- The upcoming election will be a vote-by-mail election. However, if you are unable to vote by mail, in-person voting will be available in at least one polling place per municipality. Please contact your local County Clerk for more information on available locations and accommodations.
- Voting is your right as a citizen and no one should tell you otherwise. If you are experiencing challenges voting, please call 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683). You can also request assistance in voting by filling out our 2020 Voting Pledge!
- Polling places MUST be accessible to disabled voters. Do not be afraid to speak up if you feel your rights are being violated. To learn more about voting rights in New Jersey, please check out the State Division of Elections Voter Rights and Accessibility webpage here.
- You are allowed to, but not required to have someone help you vote. For in-person voting, this can be a poll-worker or someone you bring with you. Any person may assist you in completing a vote-by-mail ballot.
- You have the right to vote privately and independently. If someone is violating your right to vote privately and independently, please call 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683) to report your situation and receive assistance.
This only a shortlist of important items, so please let us know if you have any additional questions about how to ensure you can vote in 2020. You can also check out our Voting Information Center website for more detailed information and helpful voting tools.
At the moment, most of us are stuck inside trying to keep ourselves entertained until this period of quarantine concludes. A great way to pass the time is by immersing yourself in a new show or movie. When looking for something to watch, most of us like to pick a story we can see ourselves in. If that’s the case, why do we rarely see movies or tv shows that portray characters with disabilities, especially in main roles? Furthermore, how often are these characters played by actors with the disability they are portraying?
Here’s What You’re Probably Not Hearing Enough of…
If you check the news or head to social media, you will surely be met with endless headlines of COVID-19 related news and health warnings. You will probably be given tons of virus-related advice and instructions on how to stay physically healthy. What you are less likely to hear, however, is a reminder to check in on your mental health.
Why Should I Fill Out the Census?
Because it’s important to people with disabilities and their families!
Every 10 years, the United States counts everyone who lives in the country, regardless of age, nationality or ability. It is important that everyone – especially individuals and families living with a disability – respond to the 2020 Census. Information collected in the Census will inform the allocation of more than $675 billion in federal funds for states and communities each year for the next decade. That includes money for services that ensure people with disabilities have access to the supports they need to thrive!
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has issued a stay-at-home order and many New Jerseyans are struggling to deal with the isolation. There is a toll “social distancing” takes on our mental health. When you have a mental illness, that toll is multiplied. Luckily, there are steps you can take to manage your mental health until this pandemic ends and we can return to normal life.
Here are 7 tips for keeping “mental-healthy” during a quarantine:
1. Technology to Keep in Touch
There is no replacing face-to-face interactions with your family and friends. Still, a close second is using video call apps that can show you a friendly face when you’re feeling down. Keep in touch with iPhone’s built-in Facetime function or try some of the free apps listed here for Android or here for desktop.
Pandemic Protection for Our Most Vulnerable
Within a few short weeks, the Coronavirus (Covid-19) went from being a dangerous disease to being classified as a global pandemic. Countries have begun to take extreme measures to control the outbreak, but we must also take responsibility for the protection of ourselves and our loved ones. This virus can be lethal to anyone with a compromised immune system, heart disease, or respiratory complications, which means we must take extra precautions for people with disabilities, special needs, and seniors. We should also be considerate of the unique challenges we will face as a result of the special measures being put in place by our local, state, and federal governments. You can find many online resources detailing how to generally protect yourself and others, but this article will focus on those unique considerations for the individuals and families we serve.
Senator Stephen Sweeney (primary sponsor) and Senator Troy Singleton have put forward a bill in the New Jersey legislature that would increase direct support professional (DSP) wages in the state.
As the bill’s “statement” makes clear, DSP wages are becoming unsustainable at their current levels as the cost of living rises. See below:
“At an average starting salary of $12 per hour, DSP wages are not competitive, with an increasing number of retailers paying $15 to $18 per hour and New Jersey’s minimum wage on a path to $15 per hour for entry-level jobs that are far less demanding. To compound the issue, there is a growing DSP shortage that is threatening the safety and health of individuals with I/DD living in community settings.”