Building community is important, especially during this global pandemic. And while community looks a lot different when so many people are sheltering at home, the support that is provided by others remains valuable. From the three hour long combination phone calls and video chats with workers and employees to the shorter, but just as important, conversations with your son’s teachers and therapists, today’s phone calls, texts, and video chats take on new meaning. When you needed to replace the wheelchair calf straps for your son, for instance, that task involved a therapist, a teacher, and another parent. Not wanting to invite anyone outside of your immediate family into your home, you relied on technology and patience to take care of the upgrade in the wheelchair calf straps.
Having a son who is at risk of infection in a typical time means that you have had to be extra diligent about limiting his exposure during this pandemic. His limited mobility has never been an issue in your home because you had it custom designed a decade ago, but the regular maintenance and cleaning of the wheelchair cushion covers remains essential. As he continues to grow you have had to replace the wheelchair calf straps and other materials, and before long it looks like you will have to be upgrading to a bigger chair.
Helping a Family Member with Mobility Limitations Can be Time Consuming
The Census Bureau defines disability status through six types of questions measuring difficulty with hearing, vision, cognition, walking and climbing stairs, self-care, and independent living. Anyone of these categories, of course, can require a number of adaptations to a home, school, or workplace. Knowing when and where to use wheelchairs that are rigid and when wheelchairs that fold, for instance, can help you make the most of any kind of situation. And understanding exactly how wheelchair calf straps should fit is just one example of how important it is to also consider comfort when you are making any kind of decision.
During a time when so many families are required to shelter in place it should come as no surprise that there are many people with mobility issues that may be struggling. Phone calls and telemedicine conversations can provide some support, but the reality is that many parents, spouses, and caregivers are now responsible for more tasks than they have been in the past.
The latest census information indicates that more than 20 million people over the age of 18 have serious difficulty walking or climbing stairs. In fact, this group makes up 7.1% of non-institutionalized people with disabilities. As a result there are a number of options and resources that are available. In a time of limited one to one in person access, however, making adjustments that are needed to wheelchairs and other mobility devices can require long conversations.
And while nearly 98% of public transportation buses are appropriately equipped to accommodate people in wheelchairs, there are significant problems if those options for travel are limited because of weather, or in today’s case, a pandemic. Having all of the resources that are needed to stay at home can be a challenge for the average person who is fully mobile, but for those with mobility issues the challenge can be even greater. The fear, of course, is that these patients will not get the exercise and therapy that they need and will in the weeks or months of being required to stay at home lose much of the progress and freedom that they have spend years to acquire.
Given that research from 2016 indicates that approximately 38.9% of people 18 years and older with disabilities are obese, the mobility issues can become even more difficult and problematic. Less movement that might come with being required to stay at home means that a person may put on even more pounds, which in turn may make them even less mobile. This is a challenging cycle that serves as the very justification for why many of these patients need to see therapists who can help them exercise and participate in activities that encourage more movement. Navigating these weeks is difficult for everyone, but especially for the most vulnerable.