Because of our new publishing schedule, it’s only been a couple weeks since my last column. It has certainly been an incredible couple of weeks, filled with uncertainty and fear, and exponential changes in the virus numbers and in the information we receive.
The governor has declared a state of emergency and has closed down most businesses where the public gathers or where people are in close contact with service providers. The media, including Access Press, has bombarded us with recommendations on how to stay safe, so I won’t go into that in this note. I do want to talk about how COVID-19 is going to affect home care, how government ought to be supporting the needs of people in the community, and how each one of us can support one another during this crisis.
On March 16, the Minnesota Legislature passed emergency funding (SF4334) of up to $150 million for hospitals and other healthcare facilities but didn’t include any money for home care. The coalition known as This is Medicaid urged people to call or contact legislators to come back from recess and pass SF4200. A governor’s order gives Department of Human Services (DHS) commissioner emergency authority to make changes in policy and procedures so that people who depend on DHS services continue to get them during this crisis. Status updates will be posted on the This is Medicaid Minnesota Facebook page.
One of the main things the government is requesting is for all of us to stay at home, but it did not initially fund any supports for community-based services.
One of the main things the government is requesting is for all of us to stay at home, but it did not initially fund any supports for community-based services. If we get sick, most of us are probably better off staying at home rather than being in the hospital system. But for many of us to stay at home we need caregivers, and we need for them to be healthy, and we probably need assistance getting all the healthcare supplies we need in addition to food and cleaning supplies. (I’m not going to mention bathroom supplies as that’s been getting too much attention already.)
So many people with disabilities have “underlying health conditions,” so when we hear about how that makes us vulnerable to this coronavirus, I think we can tend to panic. We need to pay attention to all the right symptoms like dry cough, shortness of breath and raised temperatures, and then get help and a diagnosis right away. It’s also important that we all have a plan for what we’ll do if we notice these things. But we don’t need to panic or be anxious.
How cautious do we have to be as adults with vulnerabilities? With the personal care attendant shortage pre-virus we sometimes had to accept caregivers who were not completely qualified but were willing to work and try to do the job. I know that in the past couple years I have had to hire people who were less than committed and reliable only because there was no other option. That’s such a sad statement. It’s probably sadder that with all the layoffs right now, there may be more people willing to do home care work. It might be beneficial for the healthcare industry in general that there may be more workers who could discover worthwhile careers. I hope in saying that I’m looking on the bright side and not just being selfish.
After days of worrying and getting disgusted at a lot of public (and personal) selfishness, I’ve been paying more attention lately to how many kind and helpful people there are out there. I think we have to think about solidarity. I think we have to start thinking more about others and less about what is best for us. Maybe this virus will show us where individualism and capitalism has gotten out of control. Maybe we can start thinking more about unity and how we can help one another. Like Paul Wellstone said, “We all do better when we all do better.” It really is the time to unite. In looking around, I realize there’s a nurse across the street and a next-door neighbor who is a paramedic. Both families have two young children, and they no doubt have many more concerns about safety and the future than we do in our senior household. It always seems as though we don’t have time, and maybe we don’t, but we must unite in solidarity to overcome what is coming our way.
Be very cautious. Have people around you wash their hands, keep the caregivers to a minimum that are coming in and out of your house, have everyone who is coming and going monitor their temperature and make sure that you are monitoring your own or having it monitored. Also work to reach out to others–online, on the phone, via video chat, and in the mail. We all need each other like never before.
Be safe and we will talk next month.