Special Needs Considerations for Coronavirus (Covid-19)

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.

The Careful Caregiver

Caregiver and Person receiving services

Many individuals with disabilities employ caregivers, nurses, and other support staff to provide daily living assistance. This is often a vital service that cannot be put on hold, even with this public health crisis hanging over our heads. Since you cannot control what your staff does outside of their working hours, this means the staff you employ could possibly be exposed to or infected with the virus. This does NOT mean you need to halt the service entirely, however, you may want to take the following steps to ensure your staff is taking the proper precautions when providing services.

  1. If your caregiver is employed by an agency, call their representatives and find out more about what precautions they are taking to ensure their staff is following proper protocols to ensure they do not spread the disease.
  2. Have a conversation with your staff so they are clear about your expectations for them when it comes to caring for you or your loved one. Don’t be afraid to insist on increased handwashing, equipment sterilization, and any other recommended safeguards.
  3. Take a look at your OWN habits and sterilization techniques. Infection goes both ways when it comes to viruses. If you are showing symptoms or know you were exposed to the virus, be sure to let your staff know. If your staff becomes infected, they may unknowingly bring the virus to another vulnerable person they may care for, putting others in danger.

Quarantine Preparation

There are plenty of funny quarantine memes going around about stockpiling everything from toilet paper to copious amounts of wine. By all means, don’t let the pandemic rob you of your sense of humor, but don’t forget that quarantine preparation is a very real consideration during these times of uncertainty. Here are a few things you should consider when making your last-minute shopping list:

  1. Prescription Medications – needlessly stockpiling medications can put a strain on pharmacies and is not something that should be done lightly. However, persons with disabilities and seniors often have an increased need for medications. The CDC has suggested stockpiling a three-month supply of critical prescription medications. We encourage you to contact your doctor to discuss increasing the number of meds they normally prescribe. Follow their recommendations to ensure you are properly prepared for a quarantine environment.
  2. Adaptive & Medical Equipment Purchases/Repairs – if you rely on medical or adaptive equipment (wheelchairs, specialized lifts, infusion pumps, etc.) and you have been putting off a repair for a while, now is the time to give your equipment the attention it deserves. If there is scheduled review/maintenance of the equipment, perhaps call the inspectors and see if they can bump up the date so it can be checked earlier.
  3. It Takes a Village – give a call to a neighbor or close friend you trust to discuss how you can help one another if a quarantine does go into effect. It is always nice to know that if something does happen, someone outside of your home is aware of your challenges and is ready to assist.
  4. Mental Health Helpers – being stuck inside with nothing to do can be taxing on one’s mental health. If you have a favorite hobby or indoor activity, be sure you have what you need to fully enjoy that activity. Plan for both group AND solo activities. Having fun with family can be great, but you need to set aside some alone time as well. Video games, board games, books, movies, needlepoint – find what works for you and make sure you have everything you need to enjoy them.
  5. Food and Water – some individuals with disabilities may have food sensitivities or allergies to consider. Others may need their food and liquids specially prepared (purees, thickening liquids, etc.). Similar to your medications, you may want to have a healthy stockpile of these foods/liquids/items on-hand to prepare for a time of scarcity, should it arise.

Disability Community Contributions

We hope you found these tips helpful as you prepare for the coming months. We don’t pretend to have all the answers so we hope you will help us add to this article by contributing YOUR tips in the comments below. Pooling our collective knowledge is the best way for everyone to keep everyone safe and thriving during these uncertain times. As new information presents itself, we will keep you up-to-date regarding any changes to our services here.

You can also take time to reach out to Congress and remind them to keep people with disabilities in mind as they craft legislation to address the Covid-19 pandemic.

In the meantime, check out our latest blog post: 7 Tips on How to Stay “Mental Healthy” During a Quarantine.

You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn for all our Coronavirus updates.

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