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Supporting someone with a disability during the COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic puts extra stress on people with special needs, disabilities and family carers.

This advice can help carers and families to look after someone with special needs at this time.

Explain the COVID-19 situation

Make sure the person understands what is happening at the moment.

For help explaining COVID-19, you could use:

COVID-19 testing

Discuss COVID-19 testing and explain what will happen if they need to be tested. If they need to go to a testing centre, they may find it helpful to role-play the testing process. This will help to make sure there is nothing that they weren’t expecting on the day.

Read more about testing for COVID-19

Download an easy-to-read guide on:

Supports available to you

Contact your regular service provider to find out how they can help you. If you don’t have one, phone your public health nurse or HSE disability manager.

Find contact details for your local HSE Disability Service

Your local county council may be able to help if you need food or medical supplies delivered.

Find out more about community support during the COVID-19 pandemic

You can also call any of these helplines for advice:

HSELive

The HSE’s helpline
Phone: 1800 700 700

Inclusion Ireland

Inclusion Ireland is the national association for people with an intellectual disability.
Phone: 0818 55 98 91

Family Carers Ireland

Practical advice and support for those caring for a loved one at home.
Phone: 1800 24 07 24

ALONE

Support line for older people
Phone: 0818 22 20 24

Samaritans

Help with your mental health
Phone: 116 123

Barnardos Parent Support

Help for parents when talking to children
Phone: 1800 91 01 23

Parentline

Helpline for parents
Phone: 1890 92 72 77

Understand the risks for the person you’re supporting

The person you are looking after may be at higher risk of serious illness if they get COVID-19. They may have a long-term medical condition or a weak immune system.

Read advice about what people at higher risk should do to protect themselves from COVID-19

Identify their important non-medical needs also. If there’s something they will be very distressed about, think about how you can support them. For example, talking to someone on a regular video chat schedule if they cannot meet them in person.

Children with disabilities

Preparation and routine

Do as much preparation for changes in routine as possible.

Use visuals where possible, such as:

  • 'First and then' charts - a way to show that if the first activity is completed, children can then enjoy their preferred activity afterwards
  • a calendar with pictures of what is coming up
  • a personalised book outlining what will be happening
  • a visual schedule outlining daily activities

Routines can help your child feel secure. They can help them feel like they have more control. Routines can give your child confidence that nothing bad will happen.

Keep as much routine as you can.

You should try to keep:

  • the same bedtime and wake time if possible
  • a lot of their meal times the same
  • outdoor time if appropriate
  • time to relax and play

Avoid over-stimulation where possible. Give them one thing to do, for example, a sticker, colouring or picture books.

Download a guide for supporting children during COVID-19 (PDF, 2.5MB, 32 pages).

Download a guide to supporting young people with additional needs during the COVID-19 pandemic (PDF, 2.19MB, 13 pages).

You can find more COVID-19 resources for parents on the mid-west disability services website.

Resources for children with autism

Use these stories to help children with autism understand COVID-19 - from the autism charity, As I Am.

Use this comic strip to explain COVID-19 to children with autism (PDF, 1MB, 12 pages).

Get organised at home

Health Passport

Check if the person you’re caring for has an up-to-date Health Passport. This is a physical document that shows what supports they may need if they have to go for a test or into hospital.

This might be special instructions on any help they need when:

  • moving
  • eating
  • dressing
  • using the bathroom

Download a Health Passport (PDF, 609KB, 8 pages)

Read advice on how to fill out a Health Passport (PDF, 202KB, 4 pages)

You can also download a streamlined passport for hospital admission (PDF, 82KB, 1 page).

Emergency care plan

You may need a plan for who can offer support if you get sick and cannot give care.

Family Carers Ireland have an emergency care plan for primary carers. This is to help carers think about who could offer support and what that person would need to know.

Download an emergency care plan from Family Carers Ireland (PDF, 784KB, 10 pages)

GP phone number

Make sure to display their GP or doctor’s phone number somewhere visible.

Find a GP in your area

Display a poster

Put a poster in a visible place to explain the best ways of preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Download a poster on how to prevent COVID-19 (PDF, 1.67MB, 1 page)

Checking supplies

Have a plan for who you can call if you need any essential items. Prepare what you’ll need for this time.

This may include:

  • 1 to 2 weeks of essential supplies, including food and cleaning items
  • prescription medication and over-the-counter medication
  • continence aids, wipes, catheters, feeding tube gear to last up to a month

If you usually get continence products from the HSE, this should continue. Contact your local HSE Continence Officer if you have any questions.

Hospital appointments

Some patient’s hospital appointments have changed because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Read more about hospital service updates and visiting restrictions

Call your GP or specialist if you have any questions about upcoming appointments.

Daily routine

Plan a positive daily routine. Write the routine down and make sure that the person can understand it.

Some tips to help plan this include:

  • making a routine for each day of the week
  • keeping the same bedtime and wake up time as normal
  • adding physical activities throughout the day as well as restful breaks
  • healthy foods, snacks and hydration
  • activities they can do on their own if possible - for example, yoga or painting

Any activities that you include should follow social distancing guidelines.

Read more about protecting yourself and others

Take care of yourself

You need to take care of yourself to take care of others. Keep physically and mentally well and accept any help you are offered.

Read about looking after your mental health during the COVID-19 outbreak

If you are a carer with symptoms of COVID-19

If you have symptoms of COVID-19 and the person you are caring for is in a high-risk group, contact your regular service provider. If you don’t have one, contact your public health nurse or local disability manager.

Find contact details for your local HSE Disability Service

If you need help in developing a new care plan or routine, phone Family Carers Ireland on 1800 24 07 24.

The person you are caring for may not be high risk and there may be someone else in the house who can look after them. If there is, you should isolate yourself as much as possible.

If health or social care staff come to your home

Health and social care staff who visit homes have been given clear guidance to prevent infection and keep everyone safe.

Everyone should follow the advice on good hygiene and hand washing. If staff are not following these guidelines, contact your service provider for advice.

If anyone in your house has symptoms of COVID-19, you should phone:

  • their GP
  • your service provider

Do this straight away before the health staff or home support arrives. This is to make sure you stop the spread of COVID-19.

Personal Protective Equipment

Public health nurses may have gloves and aprons for medical card and Long Term Illness Scheme cardholders.

Read more about medical cards and the Long-Term Illness Scheme.

Financial support

You may be able to get financial support if you:

  • are a carer looking after someone with a disability
  • have a disability and have lost your job because of COVID-19

You can find out about COVID-19 social welfare supports on the Family Carers Ireland website

You can also call:

Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP) income support helpline

Phone: 1890 80 00 24

Easy to read disability resources

Download an easy-to-read COVID-19 booklet for people with disabilities and their carers (PDF, 2.32MB, 24 pages)

Visit the Inclusion Ireland website for easy to read guides to help people with intellectual disabilities

Last updated: 4 January 2021 at 10.30am

page last reviewed: 29/04/2020
next review due: 29/04/2023