Coronavirus Covid-19, disabled people, and PAs

The data showing the spread of covid-19 is changing day by day. The current advice centres on people going into self-isolation as a precaution and as a method of containment. The reason is that covid-19 is at its most dangerous in a hospital or a health centre. Current knowledge (caution: this is not a medical website) is that the virus has a mild impact on most people, but for some babies and some adults it can be fatal.

These so-called vulnerable groups, according to current reports, include newborn babies and adults with compromised health. This list of compromised health includes people with:
– cancer,
– serious pre-existing conditions,
– COPD, and
– breathing difficulties.

This list naturally includes many disabled people. It also naturally includes many hospital patients and many health centre visitors, as well as being a high and sometimes fatal risk to health care workers. Hence the focus on self-isolation and telephone consultations with health care services.

However, for disabled people, self-isolation might become the best precaution – to protect themselves from the general population rather than to protect the general population from them.

But what then about PAs? How as a disabled person can you self-isolate if you need PAs to visit you daily? And will PAs become the most vulnerable to infection, similarly to hospital-based health care workers, because of the nature of their work?

Given the intimate and sustained nature of many PA tasks, the idea of gloves and masks seems inadequate to me as a barrier to cross- infection, but are we prepared logistically and culturally for PAs to visit disabled people, and other people with compromised health conditions, in full haz-mat suits – it might feel too extreme for home-based care, but it might save lives.

Alternatively, it might be the PA rota that has to be abandoned. The PA and the disabled person may have to self-isolate together, but this assumes a lot about the PAs own life circumstances as well as about the availability of PAs for 1-to-1 support rather than a rota of visits.

Perhaps as a start, for self-isolating disabled people, the maximum amount of assistive equipment (self-operated hoists, etc) should be deployed out of official storage and into homes as a matter of urgency.

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