With many states relaxing safety restrictions and opening some
retail businesses, people are confused as to the right way to move forward. We’re
all tired of this. We miss our loved ones and friends. We all long to go back
to the way things were before the pandemic struck. However, especially for
people with intellectual and developmental disabilities who often deal with
underlying health conditions, the most dangerous thing we can do is to
underestimate this virus and let our guard down.
risk is real
Confusion is understandable. We see mixed messages in the
media and from political and government leaders. One thing most everyone can
agree on is that our safer-at-home/shelter-in-place efforts have appeared to reduce
the spread of the virus. Currently, there are signs of the curve flattening and
an overall decrease in the number of hospitalizations across the country,
leading people to look ahead to the next phase of recovery.
As confusing as this is to you, people with developmental
and intellectual disabilities can find the pandemic and the impact on their
lives very hard to understand. Restrictions, masks, gloves, more cleaning …
these things can cause confusion and fear. When your loved one is living in a
group home or assisted living environment away from you, that separation can
pose additional challenges.
While simply having a disability doesn’t increase the
likelihood of developing COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention (CDC), people with disabilities are at a higher risk of severe
illness from COVID-19 if they have a serious underlying chronic medical
condition. In fact, adults with disabilities are three times more likely to
suffer from a serious health condition than adults without disabilities.
As we consider the right way to move forward with our loved
ones, we need to continue to rely on guidance from the medical community. Unfortunately,
the number of deaths from the virus continues to rise, validating that the
virus is still with us. We can’t will it away and we can’t ignore its presence.
There currently is no cure and no vaccine.
Now is not the time to let our guard down and become
complacent. The best thing to do to protect your loved one is to be patient, maintain
vigilance and continue to practice safety protocols that limit exposure to the
virus until the medical community provides new guidance.
your virtual communications
This time is difficult for everyone. There is a constant
strain due to not being able to get together with friends and family as we once
did. For those apart during this time, regular communications will help us all
get through this difficult time.
Communicate frequently via phone—or better yet—video chat
with your loved ones. Applications such
as FaceTime, Zoom, Google Meet and Houseparty facilitate video interaction from
your smart phone or computer so you and your loved one can see each other and
have a more personal conversation. Try walking around the house and show them
that things are waiting just as they remember for their next visit when it is
safe. Create a group video chat to simultaneously enjoy each other’s company.
Play a game, take turns talking about a given topic … video chats are a great
way to connect.
and letters to your loved ones. Include photos of extended family and fond
memories. Pets often have a special relationship with their families. If you
have a pet, be sure to include a photo. Encourage close family and friends to
send cards and photos as well.
Look for online programs and activities to ensure your loved ones are
active and engaged even if you are not there with them. You can complete the
activity as well and talk to them about it.
This isn’t going to last forever, but we’re not out of the
woods yet. We just need to hang in there a little longer and make extra effort
to make meaningful connections.