Man in a wheelchair takes a box of groceries from a woman outside his doorway. Both are wearing masks and gloves.
COVID-19 Infographic

Helpful Tips for People with Disabilities During COVID-19

By on 04/22/2020

The current coronavirus pandemic has brought unique concerns for those that are most vulnerable to the virus. Those in high-risk groups include people 65 years and older, those living in long-term care facilities, people with chronic lung disease, serious heart conditions, those who are immunocompromised, and those who are pregnant.

But there is one high-risk population who should not be overlooked: people living with disabilities.

Since there are a wide variety of injuries and disabilities, there is no one-size-fits-all plan of action for people with disabilities. Much like the other groups of high-risk individuals, those living with disabilities need to be extremely vigilant about their health, especially in the midst of a global pandemic.

That’s why it’s important to abide by all precautions the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has instituted, particularly social distancing.

While it’s integral to limit as much interaction with others as possible, that can often be difficult for those needing extra assistance or requiring a caregiver.

Are there specific guidelines for people living with disabilities during the current pandemic?  Alberto Esquenazi, MD, The John Otto Hass Chair of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at MossRehab helps to answer this question and provide some tips on how to best care for yourself or others with a disability during COVID-19.

Take Proper Precautions

“At MossRehab, in accordance with CDC and WHO guidelines, we advise patients to avoid contact with people who are sick and avoid places where lots of people congregate,” says Dr. Esquenazi. “Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. And stay home when you are sick.”

“If you have rehabilitation or medical needs, ask your doctor for video consultation, if possible, as this will reduce your exposure. Remember to ask caregivers to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer every time before they touch you to assist.”

Disinfect All Surfaces

If you or a loved one uses a wheelchair, prosthesis or any type of assistive device make sure to clean these surfaces more frequently, especially when returning from being in public. 

“Use disinfecting wipes on areas that come into contact with the ground, and make sure to wipe your hands as well before touching other surfaces in the home,” explains Dr. Esquenazi. “Remember to clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces, including your phone and glasses, if you wear them.”

Indoor/Outdoor Gear

Have an extra assistive device? “If you have a second wheelchair, cane or walker, it’s a good idea to keep one for outdoor/public use and one for home use. This helps to limit further contamination.”

Keep Your Schedule

Maintain your routine and daily exercise regimen as much as possible during this time.

“Waking up at normally scheduled times, keeping meals staggered throughout the day and staying well hydrated is very important,” says Dr. Esquenazi. “Implement an exercise program by either getting outside for a walk or doing simple exercises in-home to help maintain mental, emotional and physical health.”

For more helpful tips and resources, including personal exercise instruction, visit MossRehab.com/coronavirus.

Check out this infographic for some quick tips to keep you and others safe during this time.

Caring for yourself and others during COVID-19

What You Can Do
Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
Practice social distancing, try to get groceries delivered and avoid crowded areas.
Clean all surfaces frequently such as counters, sinks, wheelchairs, walkers, crutches and prosthetics.
Limit travel to essential trips such as the pharmacy, visiting those in need or getting needed supplies.

Ways to Reduce Anxiety
Call family and friends to help stay connected during this time. Consider video chatting for virtual face-to-face interaction.
Understanding this is temporary is important. The current pandemic can make you feel isolated, but being reminded that this will pass can help ease feelings of loneliness.
Try to limit how much you're checking social media -- constantly checking media sources can become overwhelming and negative. Ask family or friends to just share important information or updates.
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Perspectives highlights the expertise and services provided by the physicians, specialists, nurses and other healthcare providers at Einstein Healthcare Network. Through this blog, we share information about new treatments and technologies, top-tier clinical teams and the day-to-day interactions that reinforce our commitment to delivering quality care with compassion. Here, you will also find practical advice for championing your health and wellness. The Einstein Healthcare Network "Terms of Use" apply to all content on this blog.