As Australia opens up despite ongoing COVID community transmission, people with disabilities need to work through some complex questions. One of these questions hits our friend Dr George Taleporos a bit too close to home – so he got some answers to share with all of us in his new series of Reasonable and Necessary.
One morning in late September, while my support worker was cleaning up my breakfast dishes, he received a phone call.
He found out that his mother was a primary contact of a person who had tested positive for COVID.
As soon as I found another member of my support team to cover his shift, my support worker went to get tested.
So many questions were running through my mind…
What if my support worker does have COVID?
What if I do too?
Do I need to get tested?
What will I do if my support team has to quarantine?
What if I am told to go to the hospital?
I was freaking out. I needed a plan.
I spent 2020 and most of 2021 planning how not to get COVID. I didn’t have a plan for what to do if I did.
Thankfully, both my support worker and his mother did not contract COVID. But I made a plan for when this might happen again.
I set a policy – everyone coming into my home had to be fully vaccinated. This was hard, but necessary. I had to remove one of my workers from my team until 2 weeks after he was fully vaccinated – because that’s how long it takes for the second dose to work.
I made sure that I had the full kit of PPE, including N95 masks.
My plan was to stay at home if I tested positive, my avoidance of hospital reflecting my personal circumstances and the complexity of my disability.
I need a team of people around me who have experience supporting me. Strangers have no idea what to do. That is one of the reasons why I avoid hospitals at all costs. And if I do need to go into hospital, I make sure I can have my support workers come with me.
A person’s COVID plan needs to be tailored to their specific individual needs and circumstances. Make sure people know about your plan and your wishes in case there comes a time that you are not able to express them.
What’s the plan if one of my support workers contracts COVID? is just one of the tricky questions that this pandemic has forced me to think long and hard about. There are many others, and they are becoming even more complex as we learn to live with the virus circulating in the community.
So how can people with disability stay safe?
I host an NDIS YouTube series called Reasonable and Necessary as part of my job at the Summer Foundation. The latest series launches today, and you guessed it – it’s all about how people with disabilities can stay safe as Australia opens back up.
My guests and I talk about:
- why NDIS participants are behind the general population in the race to vaccinate,
- mandatory vaccination of disability support workers,
- the use of rapid antigen testing,
- how people can use their NDIS plans to stay safe from COVID,
- and much more.
My guests include:
- Deputy Chief Medical Officer Prof Michael Kidd,
- the Chair of Disability and Health at Melbourne University, Professor Anne Kavanagh,
- Australia’s Disability Rights Commissioner Ben Gauntlett,
- Deputy CEO of the National Disability Insurance Agency Lisa Studdert, and
- Acting NDIS Commissioner, Samantha Taylor.
- I also caught up with antiviolence and disability advocate Anj Barker to hear about her experience of catching COVID off her support worker.