COVID-19, also known as the novel coronavirus, mainly affects those over the age of 60 or those with a known health condition – including disabilities. Now, not everyone with a disability is affected by this virus, and many individuals with disabilities will recover even after contracting it.
However, it is important to know which disabilities put family members at higher risk and how you can keep them safe during this outbreak.
Disabled Americans are at high risk and need to avoid social situations as much as possible. While everyone should exercise social distancing, those in the high-risk group have been asked to stay home as much as possible.
Five Critical Things to Remember about People with Disabilities and COVID-19
If you have a disability or you care for a loved one with a disability, these five critical facts are something you should definitely consider:
1. People with Disabilities Are in the High-Risk Category
Being disabled doesn’t automatically mean you are in the high-risk category. However, most individuals with a disability have other factors that put them into that high-risk category, such as their age or the type of disability they have (for example, a disability caused from a chronic health condition, or a disability that creates a chronic health condition).
Unfortunately, the news does not notify the public of this. Instead, they only mention that the elderly and those with a chronic illness should worry. However, they forget that those with disabilities could be just as much at risk.
Likewise, the news creates fear by telling people if they have a chronic condition, they are at risk for fatalities. While they are a higher risk category, that doesn’t mean 100 percent of those with a chronic condition or disability pass away if they get coronavirus.
If you are concerned about your risk, it is best to stay socially isolated, but also speak with your healthcare provider about your level of risk and what you can do to stay safe.
2. Help Family Members and Neighbors with Disabilities – They May Be Unable to Take the Steps Necessary to Protect Themselves
Those who are disabled may not be able to take the steps they need to protect themselves from COVID-19.
For example, some individuals may require constant care from an outside source, including daily assistance, hygiene, food preparation, and even house cleaning. The more individuals entering their home, the higher the risk of contracting coronavirus.
A person with disabilities may have difficulty washing their hands frequently, and with the major shortage of hand sanitizer, it is imperative that they have access to a sink with soap to wash away germs. If your loved one’s home has not been retrofitted, now is the time to make sure their sink is accessible and that they have enough soap on hand to wash frequently.
Another issue is access to supplies. Individuals with disabilities may not be able to stock up on what they need, which may prompt them to go to the store and buy the items they need and risk exposure in the process.
3. Coronavirus Impacts Independence
Some individuals are just fine living at home with their disabilities. But when stay-at-home orders are issued, this can affect their ability to live independently. Home care aides may be unable to come into their home, and the disabled individual may be unable to go to adult daycare services or other group activities that help support them mentally and emotionally.
Social isolation can greatly impact their emotional well-being. If you have a disabled loved one, make sure you are checking on them. If you cannot visit physically, do live video chats or call just so that they get interaction.
4. Getting Routine Medical Care Can Be Difficult
Right now, most routine appointments are placed on hold because of the outbreak, and high-risk groups are encouraged to avoid their physician’s office at all times. However, those with disabilities may need to see their family care physician – not because they are sick, but as part of their disability’s care requirements.
Not all physicians are offering telemedicine services to their patients, which means your loved one may have to leave their home to get the care they need. Before doing so, see if their physician’s office supports online/video visits, or if they can do visits over the phone to avoid exposure. In some cases, going to the office cannot be avoided, but make sure your loved one is protected by wearing a mask and staying at least six feet away from anyone in the waiting room.
5. Seek Medical Attention at the Sign of Illness
Because those with chronic illnesses are at higher risk for contracting the illness and suffering complications, make sure you or your loved one seeks medical attention if they suspect they have COVID-19. As the weeks go on and spring temperatures rise, the likelihood of it being a seasonal virus becomes less likely. Therefore, contact your physician’s office, explain your symptoms, and see if you can be tested for COVID-19.
Most states have drive-through testing, which means you do not have to go to your doctor’s office or risk exposure.
Planning for In-Home Care for a Loved One with Disabilities
Whether you need in-home care during this outbreak crisis, or you just want to plan ahead and ensure that a disability will not affect you from getting the assistance you need, speak with an estate planning attorney. An attorney can help identify ways to save for long-term care (whether in a nursing home or in the comfort of your own home). Furthermore, you can make sure your affairs are in order so that, if something were to happen, you do not have to worry about your loved ones trying to figure out what to do next.
Plan ahead by speaking with a trusted attorney at the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, PC, today. You can schedule a free case evaluation by calling the office or contacting us online with your questions about long-term care and disability planning.