Right now, there’s a lot of information in the news, online and on TV. What and who do we trust? Because there’s so much uncertainty about where to go for reliable information, our team at SCI BC compiled a comprehensive list of trusted sources.
Also, if you missed our Virtual Peer Group on SCI and COVID-19, check out the video recording of the session here, or read on for answers to the most frequently asked questions that we’ve received from our Peers over the last few weeks which are specific to spinal cord injury or similar disabilities below.
We will be updating this post with more FAQs as they become available—so please keep checking back for the latest information. Got questions? Contact SCI BC’s Infoline at 1-800-689-2477, or email at email@example.com.
- Read what to do on the BC CDC website: http://www.bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/covid-19
- Take the online self assessment tool for people with symptoms or who are concerned they have the virus: https://covid19.thrive.health
- If you are in a high risk category (see FAQ below), ensure you share that information with 811 or any healthcare provider you speak to about your COVID-19 symptoms. Those in higher-risk groups must consider seeking help earlier if you have symptoms.
Image Credit: Twitter @VCHhealthcare
- If they have been in contact with someone with symptoms or confirmed COVID-19 (including exposure at another job), they should self-isolate for 14 days and not be in contact with you or other clients.
- If they show symptoms, ensure they contact 811 or refer them to the self-assessment tool: https://covid19.thrive.health
- If a caregiver employee is sent home due to COVID-19 risk, you only have to pay the minimum 2 hour requirement or the time already worked, whichever is more.
- Make sure to let employees who are sent home sick know that there is an EI sickness benefit for those forced to quarantine due to COVID19, they can contact EI for more information.
SCI & COVID 19 resource from SCI Canada: https://sci-can.ca/covid-19-guidance-spinal-cord-injury-community-20200312
COVID-19 is a viral illness that results in very serious pneumonia in a small percentage of cases, particularly the elderly and those who have other health issues that complicate how COVID-19 affects the body. There is no treatment for it other than supportive care, and in serious cases, hospital treatment is required – sometimes in the ICU. We don’t know a lot about COVID-19, so what we know about the risks for people with SCI are based on how SCI affects breathing, common SCI complications, and how living with SCI can make it harder to protect ourselves from infection.
Everyone with SCI has some degree of impairment in respiratory function because of how spinal cord injury weakens the breathing muscles of the rib cage, abdomen or diaphragm. Some complications of SCI may increase the risks of getting a more serious case of COVID19, such as cardiovascular disease. People with SCI also have additional risks of exposure to COVID-19 as those who require attendant care cannot avoid close contact with caregivers while working with them, especially those whose caregivers also work with other vulnerable people or at hospital sites.
There is currently no treatment for COVID-19 other than supportive care while the virus is fought by our immune systems, so our best defense is to be vigilant about self-isolation to avoid being exposed to the virus at all.
Public health experts have advised everyone to wash our hands regularly to prevent spread of COVID-19 via contact with respiratory droplets. It can be harder for people using wheelchairs to do so if we are always touching our wheelchairs. It is important that you also wipe your wheelchair wheels, high-touch areas you use to transfer, and joystick or armrests every time you wash your hands. See the hand washing guide here, developed by John Shepherd at the University of Toronto with input from SCI Organizations.
SCI BC ReachOut Session on COVID19 (from May 17 2020): https://youtu.be/bw2r_AsgPgo
BC CDC advice for Chronic Illness and COVID19: http://www.ca/resourcegallery/Documents/Guidelines%20and%20Forms/Guidelines%20and%20Manuals/Epid/CD%20Manual/Chapter%201%20-%20CDC/COVID-19-Handout-chronic-disease.pdf
SCI & COVID 19 (SCI Canada): https://sci-can.ca/covid-19-guidance-spinal-cord-injury-community-20200312
SCI and COVID-19 (Reeve Foundation): https://www.christopherreeve.org/blog/daily-dose/the-coronavirus-and-spinal-cord-injury
There’s not always a clear answer to this question, but here are some things to consider:
Call the provider’s office first to ensure they are still seeing patients.
Consider how this appointment/treatment may put you at risk: will you encounter anyone else who doesn’t live with you while keeping the appointment (ie transit/taxi, waiting rooms, etc.)? Will you be in a space where there are at risk patients or caregivers? Will you be in contact with healthcare providers who may be exposed to COVID-19 (ie: in the ER)?
Will missing the appointment/treatment cause you medical withdrawal from medications or result in acute negative health issues requiring hospital care? If so, try one of the options below:
- Ask the provider’s office if they can do a phone appointment instead. Many specialists and physicians are doing phone appointments to keep patients out of their waiting rooms.
- Try seeing a primary care/family doctor using an online virtual health service like the following (free for people on BC MSP):
- Babylon by TELUS Health is a free healthcare mobile app that allows you to check symptoms, consult with doctors and access your health records: https://www.telus.com/en/bc/health/personal/babylon
- AccessVirtual, formerly Medeo, allows you to video visit with the family doctor or specialist from home using your computer, iOS or Android device. https://accessvirtual.ca/british-columbia/en/
- BC Pharmacies are now allowed to provide refills of prescribed medication without a new prescription. Contact your local pharmacy for information about delivery. Health Canada has issued a temporary exemption for access to opioid medications for people with pain. More information is here, but you may need to speak to your pharmacist about it before refilling as the exemption was only issued March 24:
- Contact Infoline – 1800 689 2477 or firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know your need
- Check our Swap n Shop service – sci-bc.ca/swapnshop – post a request for the supplies you need and browse offers for supplies
- Macdonalds Pharmacy still has gloves and other supplies – delivery available within metro Vancouver and Fraser Valley
- Ask your pharmacy if they have any supplies behind the counter (specifically for medical needs like yours) – in many locations they are hiding some medical supplies like gloves and wipes for their patients because of hoarding.
- Contact your CSIL worker if you are having issues securing caregivers, or getting them adequate supplies to protect you both.
- You can use agency caregivers if you aren’t able to secure usual caregivers using your CSIL funding, however they are more expensive and may already be working at capacity.
- How do I maintain self isolation with my caregivers working so closely with me? Caregivers need to work closely in order to support us, but you should take great care that they and you are protected. This is a great guide to precautions to take – and remember, you can cover the protective equipment like gloves and masks under your CSIL funding. https://www.publichealthontario.ca/-/media/documents/ncov/factsheet-covid-19-guide-isolation-caregivers.pdf?la=en
- How do I deal with caregivers cancelling shifts or being unavailable? What if they are exposed to high risk people at another job? Those on CSIL (individualized caregiver funding) needing help regarding caregiver shortages, questions re: management of caregivers during COVID19 can also call the Individualized Funding Resource Centre (IFRC), supporting people with home individualized funding/caregiving: https://www.ifrcsociety.org
Protecting your health is extremely important in this situation. You have every right to maintain your isolation and ask your housemates to do the same. It gets thorny when they refuse or clearly are not, but there aren’t a lot of clear options about what to do next:
- Consider dividing the house/apartment so that you and your housemate/family member do not share commonly used items like bathrooms, kitchen sinks, computers or TV remotes.
- Ask around to see if anyone you know has a suite or spare room that you or the housemate/family member could use.
- Chat with our Infoline at 1-800-689-2477 about further options.
- This is a great article with some ideas about how to talk to friends and family who aren’t practicing social distancing and putting you at risk: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/mar/16/how-to-social-distance-convince-friends-family?fbclid=IwAR0esoMISKD5RlUaTx005PAjOXyNZixScJdtvHw1y6RXPDhcHG4QelpQQwg
- Contact the Provincial Respiratory Outreach Program at Technology for Living, which is operating a call centre with after hours service. Provincial Respiratory Outreach Program (PROP) 1-866-326-1245
- Protecting your lungs, by Dr. Viet Vu (GF Strong Physiatrist): https://technologyforliving.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/BCITS-Balance-NL_July17-Final.pdf
This crisis is an unprecedented challenge to our mental health, and there are resources out there to support you during this time.
If you feel that you are out of options and are going to hurt yourself, call 911.
- Are you thinking of suicide?
- What is your plan? / Do you have a plan?
- How and when will you carry it out?
…Then call 911 or ask someone nearby to call for you.
Call the provincial suicide crisis line, open 24/7 if you or someone you know is considering suicide. 1-800-784-2433
- Call 310-6789 (no area code), open 24/7 for non-emergency emotional support and advice, as well as referrals to local health authority services.
- Online Chat Service for Youth: www.YouthInBC.com (Noon to 1am)
- Online Chat Service for Adults: www.CrisisCentreChat.ca (Noon to 1am)
- HereToHelp http://www.heretohelp.bc.ca/ Excellent page for learning about mental health, mental illness, local resources, and self help assessments and guides.
- Self Management BC: offers online programs to help people with chronic diseases and disabilities, including pain, better manage their mental health and wellness. Courses are free and offered to anyone in BC http://www.selfmanagementbc.ca/ Call 1-866-902-3767 for telephone support.
- SCI Information Database, section on Mental Wellness https://sci-bc-database.ca/category/health/mental-wellness/
- ReachOut session with Jaisa Sulit, OT and SCI Peer: https://youtu.be/UwLjd5Oe58A
- CAMH (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health) COVID 19 site https://www.camh.ca/en/health-info/mental-health-and-covid-19
Search COVID-19 Coming Together on Facebook for a Coming Together group near you.
Call Infoline for more support in connecting with help – 1-800-689-2477 or email@example.com
Meals on Wheels – Health & Home Care Society of BC www.carebc.ca/meals-on-wheels.html
Tri-Cities – Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody:
Seniors Come Share Society – Seniors Peer Help / Food Delivery/ Home and Day Programs – White Rock and Surrey: https://www.comeshare.ca/
Volunteer Food Delivery and Phone Calls: https://bc.ctvnews.ca/we-are-here-to-help-volunteers-delivering-food-phoning-people-isolated-by-covid-19-1.4857501
Langley Meals on Wheels: www.lmow.ca/
Squamish/Sea To Sky:
Vancouver Island – north of the Greater Victoria area – Capital Regional District:
Beacon Buddies: matching service for support and help for grocery meds and mail pickup for people quarantined. Duncan, Chemainus, Nanaimo, Ladysmith, Qualicum, Parksville, Port Alberni, Campbell River, Comox/Courtenay: www.nanaimobeacon.com/buddies
BC Wide—no community specified:
- A facebook group that shares tips about getting through this time
- Links to free grocery delivery
- Can ask for help
- Search facebook for “COVID19 coming together” and touch the “Groups” filter to see all the coming together groups, there is probably one in your area.
Coronavirus SOS –delivery and peer support: https://coronavirussos.org/?fbclid=IwAR0edIc-xKmOYe2x88ejZtndQCZuaVAEvJuI0L0wVamOopofNJb-re1HsMo
Grocery Order/ Meal Delivery
Spud—Offers Free Grocery Delivery —Metro Vancouver and Vancouver Island:https://www.spud.ca/index.cfm?lid=1
Better Meals http://bettermeals.ca/index.php/main/links/index
Share the Goods
Stocking a households with food and supplies to hunker down for a few week is a costly endeavour that not everyone can afford. If you can use a little help or are able to provide support, check out this site.