While certain states are beginning to lift their COVID-19 lockdown orders in America right now, some people are ready to get back to normal. However, for the many of us living with disabilities and special needs, including those who are immunosuppressed or immunocompromised, we must still take careful considerations about every aspect of our lives while COVID-19 continues. While many of us in the disabled community already stay at home much of the time, the current coronavirus pandemic may require us to stay at home full-time until there is a reliable cure or vaccine.
I worry a lot about becoming ill since I live with a spinal cord injury as well as Myasthenia Gravis (a neurological disease). Those of us with certain conditions like that could potentially be more susceptible to COVID-19. Luckily, I am able to work from home and also serve as a teacher to my children at home with me. However, I do worry about others who may not have that opportunity.
As a spinal cord injury support group leader, I keep up-to-date on current tips and information that can help our members. Here are some of those tips and ideas regarding how to navigate COVID-19 while living with a disability.
Shop from the Safety of Home
If you can opt for home delivery of groceries and other items you’d typically go out to buy, you may potentially reduce your risk of exposure to the virus. Instacart is a great option if you want to buy from your local grocery stores and chains, including Target, Wal-Mart, Costco, CVS, Sprouts, and more. You may also be able to access stores and restaurants for food delivery through smartphone apps like DoorDash and Postmates.
However, if you prefer to shop in-store, you might double-check with your favorite store beforehand. Some places have made special shopping times available for the elderly as well as those of us at high risk due to compromised immune systems. Just make sure you wear a mask and use hand sanitizer to reduce your risk.
If you use a delivery service, you can request that they wear gloves and a mask. If you have a caregiver, appoint them to only handle bags coming inside your home. Both of you should be wearing gloves and masks during the transfer of items from the bags.
Here is my routine for safely receiving groceries at home.
- Leave all non-perishable items in your garage or in a designated area for a couple of days. Any potentially contaminated groceries should be clean after this, based on CDC guidelines.
- Designate one area in your kitchen to unpack your perishable items.
- Discard grocery bags.
- Clean your produce.
- Take your gloves off and wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, per CDC recommendations.
- Put away groceries in the fridge or freezer.
- Next, spray or wipe down any door handles as well as your kitchen counters and sink.
- Wash your hands again for good measure when you’re done.
Because the coronavirus (COVID-19) is capable of staying on certain surfaces for a few days, it’s important to keep your routine as clean as possible to avoid getting infected in your own home.
If you require prescriptions, as so many of us do, you may want to check with your pharmacy to see if they offer delivery options. If they offer a drive-through at their location, you may want to wear gloves and a mask when you go.
Take Care of Your Health
As always, it’s important to take care of your health so you can reduce your risk of illness and complications.
Here are some helpful tips that we can all follow to try and stay healthy.
- Take any prescribed medications on time. This includes the use of medical supplies that your doctor has prescribed, including self-catheterization.
- Consider taking vitamin supplements to strengthen your immune system. Your doctor can let you know which supplements they might recommend based on your unique anatomy, although many doctors are recommending taking Vitamin C and Vitamin D.
- Drink enough water to stay hydrated.
- Eat a balanced diet that includes vegetables, fruits, healthy grains, and proteins.
- Limit alcohol and caffeine intake. These are not only bladder irritants, but they can also leave you dehydrated.
- Get a good night’s sleep. Step away from reading or watching the news for a few hours before bed.
- Exercise at home. Yoga, meditation, aerobics, and weight-bearing exercises can all be done at home.
I’d love for you to take a look at some of my other blog posts about maintaining health with a spinal cord injury and much more.
The Importance of Mental Health and Connection
Interacting With Family, Friends, and Caregivers
As much as we love our family, it’s important to set boundaries for your own health. We all probably know some people who are not taking the COVID-19 pandemic seriously. However, they have to respect your health concerns and special needs.
If family or friends outside your household want to visit you, ask them to virtually visit on FaceTime, Zoom, or Skype instead.
If you have kids or other family members inside the home that go out, they should wear a mask on outings or errands. Plus, they should regularly wash their hands. If they come in from outside, you might ask them to change their clothes. If they exhibit symptoms of the coronavirus like coughing, they need to wear a mask or self-isolate in their bedroom.
At home, we can look at this time as a way to get closer. Spend time with your family by playing games, watching movies, and eating meals together.
Virtual Therapy and Support
If you need to talk to someone or are experiencing feelings of loneliness, isolation, grief, fear, or depression, you may want to try out online therapy. Plenty of therapists and psychologists are now offering virtual appointments.
In addition, I recommend joining online support groups and social media sites. This way, you can talk to others in similar situations, plus social media allows you to stay in touch with friends and family and even reconnect to lost acquaintances.
Find Fun Ways to Pass the Time
Lastly, find fun ways to distract yourself from ruminating on bad news outside the house. Learn a new language, play games, read, write, paint or draw, solve puzzles, or find a new home project.
What to Do If You Experience Symptoms of Coronavirus
First, what are the symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19)? According to the CDC, COVID-19 symptoms may appear within 2 weeks after viral exposure, and they may include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Muscle pain
- Sudden loss of taste or smell
If you are experiencing symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), call your doctor right away for their advice. Most doctors’ offices are accepting virtual appointments. They can prescribe the appropriate medication and offer medical advice. They will likely ask for you to stay home and self-isolate as well, although they can direct you where you can get tested.
While it will be easy to worry, please remember that the majority of documented cases survive the coronavirus. Please keep in mind that you should not go to the hospital unless it is absolutely necessary. However, if your symptoms worsen and you can’t breathe, call 911 so they can assess your condition.
While this time has been very unsettling for many of us, I know we will make it through this.