There is much talk in the media at present regarding the COVID19 virus mutations wreaking havoc overseas. Whilst I am certainly not an alarmist, I do believe in the benefits of being prepared. We all remember the chaos of the last lockdown and the restrictions under Alert Level 3 and 2. I think it’s a good time to consider some practical preparations we may be able to make (as far as practicable anyway) to position ourselves for any future possible lockdown or restrictive Alert Level. The official NZ government COVID19 website is still the most reliable source of information – here’s a link to an up to date chart of what the various Alert Levels mean  There is also disability specific COVID19 information available here COVID-19: Information for disabled people and their family and whānau | Ministry of Health NZ

There are some services and supports we cannot replace during a lockdown but here are some of my ideas of ways to prepare (you’ll have your own ideas and please feel free to add to this post):

1) Access to our family member in Residential Care (during Alert Levels 4 and 3 access to visit our family member was extremely restricted). Possibly consider a ‘social story’ picture book to explain to your family member why you can’t visit and provide this to staff to use in the event of a sudden lockdown. Consider other ways of communicating such as Skype, Zoom, Facetime, etc.

2) Respite facilities and Vocational Day Programmes were closed at Alert Level 4 and 3. This impacted hugely on families. Consider if/how you’ll be able to get a break and who might be in your ‘bubble’. Also consider how your family member might be occupied during a lockdown (activities, recreation, exercise, sensory activities, etc).

3) Will you have support staff in your bubble? This is a complicated issue as some families restricted their bubbles massively to protect their medically fragile family member which is entirely understandable. The difficulty is this left families with very little practical support and providing care 24/7.

If you do have a support worker employed under Individualised Funding who is able to continue working you may need to provide them with a travel dispensation letter as an ‘essential worker’ during Alert Level 4 or if there is a Regional lockdown. Draft letters are available from your IF Host agency – they basically just say “this person is employed by ….. for the purposes of providing essential personal cares/household management support. They are required to attend my home address …… on these days/times…….. to support disabled client …….” And the letter needs to be signed by the IF Agent or disabled person.

4) Access to Personal Protective Equipment – this was very challenging in the early weeks of the 2020 lockdown. In a nutshell, the current process is that at Alert Level 1 you need to purchase your own PPE (reasonable quantities of PPE such as gloves and gowns have always been able to be funded via Personal Cares under an Individualised Funding support package as they are a safety measure in the provision of ‘Personal Cares’ work. At Alert Levels 3 and 4 access to PPE is via your IF Host Agency or directly from Manawanui (they are an IF Host Agency and also are part of the DHB PPE supply chain disabled people which was established near the end of the 2020 lockdown).

5) Mask wearing exemption – there are official Ministry of Health ordained certificates here for those who cannot reasonably wear a mask due to their health condition or disability Official NZ COVID19 mask exemption certificates: | Complex Care Group

6) Ensure you have sufficient medications at home and are keeping repeat prescriptions up to date. Also check you’ve got an adequate supply of special dietary products or disposable medical equipment you may need available at home. Consider how you will do your grocery shopping in the event of Alert Level 4 or 3 – can you leave the house to do this or do you need to sign up for supermarket pick, pack and delivery service? Do not panic buy. Check if your GP or specialist will do video consultations during a lockdown.

That’s just a few of my ideas – you’ll have loads more to add! Just to reiterate, this is not being alarmist, just being prepared in case.