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Information Guide for Participants

Resources to help you help participants in practical ways but also to help reduce their (and your) anxiety.

By Todd Winther

Updated 15 Apr 202425 Jan 2022
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Understandably, there is a lot of worry and concern at the moment among people with disabilities, particularly those who are immunocompromised. As the case numbers rise, people with disabilities are incredibly anxious about what happens if they catch Covid and what support would be offered should they catch the virus.

This article includes resources to support participants get the information they need. As a participant myself, it is incredibly concerning that the information I need to protect myself, my support team and other people who may come into my home is not readily available. Complicating matters further is Australia's federal system of government, where the responsibility for emergency management is overseen by state and territory governments, resulting in information that can vary according to location.

It should be noted that the recommendations below should not be considered as professional advice. Please note:

  • If you need urgent medical attention, please ring 000.
  • For information about COVID-19 and vaccines call the National Coronavirus Hotline on 1800 020 080.
  • If you need specific information regarding safety concerns relating to the delivery of supports, please talk to someone you trust, or seek advice from the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission.
  • Information provided by the Agency for participants regarding their COVID-19 response can be found on their website. It includes information regarding accessing rapid antigen tests (RATs) and advice on managing to fund for Covid related expenses.

 

If a participants need a booster shot or vaccination, you can book one at your nearest location.

Contact Points for Participants Who Have Covid

The first point of contact should be your state health department website. Additionally, there are federal based resources that participants can access, including the Federal Department of Health and the Health Direct Coronavirus Hub.

Participants should keep an extra supply of Personal Protective Equipment for their support workers. For example, I created my PPE station next to the entrance of my home so my support workers can put on the equipment before they attend to my needs. Some items that should be included in a participant PPE station should and can consist of:

  • Gloves
  • Medical Grade Masks
  • Hand Sanitiser
  • Disposable Aprons
  • Face shields

 

This equipment can be included and purchased under a participant's core funding bucket.From 24 January 2022, NDIS participants can NDIS participants can use their CORE funding to purchase RATs, if the test is necessary to receive reasonable and necessary supports. They can also purchase RATs for their support workers.

If the participant works with multiple providers and has several support workers, each state or territory government provides commercial quantities of PPE, especially masks; contact your relevant state health department for more information.

If you struggle to find support workers who can cover their shifts while infectious, you can contact the Disability Gateway information Line, which will provide advice about what resources might be available in your state.

Reducing Participant Anxiety

It is only natural for participants to experience anxiety regarding the pandemic; imagining the possibility of getting the virus,  and what would happen if your support workers or primary caregivers test positive is daunting.

I say this from experience because I regularly suffer from this type of anxiety, and these questions often come into my mind daily. The most effective way to reduce this is to to plan what will happen if the worst event occurs. The University of Sydney developed an excellent planning tool for participants and those who support them in a booklet called Person-Centred Emergency Preparedness (PCEP). Planning will have the dual benefits of assuring the participant that help can be provided and creating opportunities to work through possible scenarios.

Psychological and counselling support can be included in an NDIS plan specifically under improved daily living funding.

If you have concerns about your mental health, please contact your GP or in an emergency contact 000. You can also access the following hotlines:

  • Lifeline: 13 11 14
  • Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636
  • Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800
  • Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467
  • QLife: 1800 184 527

Accessing Food

From January 12- February 28, if you normal have a support worker assisting you with meal preparation, you can temporarily use Core funding to access meal preparation and delivery services. This can include meal home delivery services. Eligible participants will not need a quote to access this support. 

Supermarkets also offer home delivery for groceries, and if you use that service often enough, there are loyalty programs where customers can access free delivery. I usually organise delivery services while my support workers are with me to put away the groceries. Given the current shortages of supplies, supermarkets will usually offer alternative items related to ones out of stock. If you are unhappy of the alternative they supply, you can claim a refund.

Encouraging Participant Connection

One of the challenges of having a disability and being cautious about spreading the virus is the reluctance to leave home for fear of catching Covid. Unfortunately has a direct impact upon the mental health of participants and can leave them feeling isolated. This is an often overlooked consequence of the pandemic. In the spirit of reducing anxiety, below are some suggestions for participants' to feel less isolated while remaining at home.

Since the pandemic started, I found that more important than ever to remain in touch with others who have disabilities. I have done this in a variety of ways. For example, I have been part of a Facebook Messenger group with others who have disabilities that live near me. We discuss what is happening in our neighbourhood and recommendations for other support services we might need.

Another friend and I have also started a tradition. Almost every night, we have a watch party where we simultaneously watch old television shows while texting each other with commentary and banter throughout the episodes. Such activities can maintain social interaction in the safety of the participant's home.

One of the few positives of the pandemic is that people with disabilities have had the opportunity to access more events and entertainment online, particularly from overseas. I have personally found it helpful to regularly check YouTube for events, commentary and discussions on topics of interest. One tip I have found helpful is to go to the search filters and click for videos over 20 minutes long (my personal favourite are videos about the late, great Stephen Sondheim). You never know what you might find.

It is important to acknowledge that we live in a time of extreme uncertainty, and that those with disabilities are among the most at risk. Contingency planning is crucial to ensure the safety and health of everyone in the community.

Authors

Todd Winther

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