Action Steps for Attendant Service Users in Response to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

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Yesterday (2/25), officials from the Centers for Disease Control said that Americans should prepare for the spread of the Coronavirus in communities across the country.  To date, there have been no confirmed cases of the virus in Monroe County or New York as a whole. Although the Coronavirus is not an immediate issue in Upstate New York, it is flu season. A lot of us are getting sick with respiratory illnesses and the flu.  CDR encourages everyone to take the steps necessary to protect themselves.  The same steps you take to protect yourself from the flu are used to protect you from the Coronavirus:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. 
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. In the event that soap and water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

This may not be enough for attendant service users who rely on personal assistance services.  CDR is encouraging attendant service users to take steps and build habits now that will protect your and your workers from the flu and other communicable diseases like the Coronavirus.  Here are some things you should do:

1. Ensure you have sufficient back up attendants in case your regular attendants cannot work; your attendants may not be able to work because either they get sick or they need to take care of a family member who is. You will still need assistance, so make sure you have someone who can provide it. You may need to identify an attendant who may only intend to work with you in a situation like this. Get them enrolled now, before you need them, so they can get paid.  We understand that it is difficult to find attendants, so if you need help identifying possible resources for emergency coverage, talk to your Supervisor Support Specialist.  There may also be people who cannot be paid to be your attendant, but are willing to help you, identify these people now so you have the resources when you need them.

2. Ensure that you have the ability to get assistance if an attendant does not show up for work. They may not be able to get to you and you need to make sure your needs are able to be met.

3. Have at least a week of non-perishable food in your home at any given time (if possible have two weeks’ supply) and identify people who can assist with shopping. If this is not financially feasible, you may need to seek out assistance from local organizations or food banks. If you need assistance finding local resources, please contact the Regional Center for Independent Living at (585) 442-6470 and ask for the No Wrong Door Team or contact your local Independent Living Center.

4. Stock up on other important supplies.  There may be shortages of other supplies like toilet paper, cleaning supplies, hygiene products and such.  You don’t need to hoard these, but plan to keep a supply in your home.

5. Identify a way to make sure you can get your medications in a timely manner. This may mean having friends or family assist you or using a pharmacy that offers prescription delivery.

6. Plan for your pets.  There may be difficulties in getting pet food or your pets may need someone to take care of them if you are hospitalized.  If you have pets, make sure you have planned for their needs too.

7. Have your attendants wash their hands and use hand sanitizer when they arrive at your home and each time prior to touching or feeding you.  Repeated handwashing can become rough on an attendant’s hands.  Using a hand sanitizer can be a way to protect you and their skin.

8. Regularly clean, sanitize and disinfect the surfaces that are touched in your home to prevent the spread of infection.  If possible, get into the habit of having your attendant do this each time immediately when they arrive at your home. 

9. Use disinfecting wipes on items that are frequently touched. These include your telephone, doorknobs, your refrigerator handle, your wheelchair controls, lifting device controls and remote controls. Make this convenient by having wipes near the items that should be regularly cleaned. 

10. Have your attendant take extra steps to avoid possibly infecting you by wearing a surgical mask if someone close to your attendant – like a member of their household – becomes sick. They should be extra vigilant about not touching their face or yours.

11. If your attendant becomes sick, urge them to seek medical care and utilize your backup attendants.  Please remember that attendants accrue sick leave and can utilize this.

12. Take immediate steps to avoid infecting your attendants if you, one of your attendants, or a member of your household begins to feel sick. Protecting their health supports your own independence. Tell all of your attendants if you, one of your attendants or someone in your household is not feeling well. Ensure everyone washes their hands and uses hand sanitizer regularly. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.  Individuals should cover their cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.  As a person with a disability, it may be difficult for you to cover a cough or sneeze, so we encourage you to wear a surgical mask if you are sneezing or coughing.  It is important to use a surgical mask correctly.  The following link explains how to properly use one. You may not have access to surgical masks as an individual.  You should contact your medical provider, your Department of Social Services, or your managed care organization for assistance with this.

13. If someone in your household becomes sick, take steps to avoid infecting other people.  If possible, have them stay in a separate room of your home to get well. Regularly clean, sanitize and disinfect shared spaces, particularly the bathroom to avoid spreading the infection. 

14. If you become sick, seek medical care immediately. As people with disabilities we are at greater risk from illnesses like these. 

15. If you cannot be supported at home, contact your doctor and notify CDR so we can make sure you are able to get back home when your situation is resolved.  Many of us know people with disabilities who have been institutionalized when they sought medical care, so some people are reluctant to seek medical support.  You do not have to put your health and life at risk to preserve your freedom.  CDR is here to help.

Additional Resources

What you need to know about coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19):

What to do if you are sick with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19):