Basseterre, St. Kitts, May 5, 2020 (SKNIS): While appearing on the May 04 National Emergency Operations Center (NEOC) COVID-19 Daily Briefing, Dr. Marissa Carty, Public Relations Officer of the Health Emergency Operations Centre, shared tips on how persons with disabilities can cope with the COVID-19 outbreak.


Dr. Carty noted that “disability alone may not equate to a higher risk for being infected by COVID-19. However, research shows that persons with disabilities are more likely to be in low income and insecure work, isolated and might be at higher risk of infection or severe illness because of their underlying medical conditions.”


The public relations officer said that some disability groups that may be at an increased risk of becoming infected include “persons with limited mobility or who cannot avoid coming into contact with others who may be infected; persons who have trouble understanding information or practicing preventative measures such as hand-washing and social or physical distancing; and persons who may not be able to adequately communicate symptoms of illness.


Dr. Carty stated that in addition to practicing the usual preventative actions, such as hand washing, coughing or sneezing into a tissue and discarding and wearing a cloth mask in public, persons with disabilities who have caregivers can help to protect themselves from respiratory illness in a number of ways.


One, ask your caregiver if they are experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19 or if they have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19. Two, ensure that your caregiver wash their hands when they enter your home before and after touching you, handling tissues or when changing linings or doing laundry. And three, ensure that your caregiver cleans and disinfects frequently touched objects and surfaces such as counter tops, tabletops, door knobs, equipment such as wheelchairs, walkers or canes as well as communication boards or any other assistive device,” she said.


Dr. Carty stated that there are several things persons with disabilities can do to cope with the COVID-19 outbreak.


Plan what you would do if you or your caregiver becomes ill. Create a contact list of family, friends, neighbours and local service agencies that can provide support, plan at least two ways of communicating from home and work that can be used rapidly in an emergency, write down this information and keep it with you and have enough household items and groceries to be comfortable staying at home for a few days or weeks, at least a 30 day supply of over the counter or prescription medications and any medical equipment or supplies that you might need,” she said.


Dr. Carty added that persons can take a picture or photocopy any prescriptions as “this may help in obtaining medications in an emergency situation.”


Having a strong support system is important for persons with disabilities, said Dr. Carty.


Employers, teachers, healthcare providers, family and friends can help by allowing them as much practical and emotional leeway as possible to cope as recommended and as they themselves may need. Remember, your actions count,” she said.


If you live and or work with a person with a disability or if you assist, care for or serve persons with disabilities, please take the risk to their health seriously and be extra careful with your own precautions so you can remain healthy and able to help.”