Featured image forPractical Ideas for Health and Safety at Home with a Disability during COVID-19

Written by Susan Tachau, PATF CEO

Please note: This article contains links to products mentioned for informational purposes only, and does not represent an endorsement or specific recommendation made by PATF.

My husband and I have been concerned about how we can help our son and his housemates be safe now that the Coronavirus has spread to the Philadelphia area. These young men live in their own home in Merion Station and live very active lives – they work, volunteer at the Constitution Center, attend professional sports games, visit family and friends, and go to the local YMCA to exercise. Michael (our son) has cerebral palsy, Kelvin has spina bifida, and Will has a traumatic brain injury. All three of them rely on attendant care. What should we do to make sure that they and their attendants stay healthy?

The attendant care agencies sent out some safety information –  wash your hands for 20 seconds, use gloves, don’t touch your face, don’t go to work if you don’t feel well, and cough or sneeze in your elbow and not in your hands. Also, don’t shake hands or hug – keep a distance of at least 6 feet from other people.

For the most part, this is good advice. But the part about keeping one’s distance doesn’t make any sense. Our guys need maximum assistance with transferring, taking showers, getting dressed, eating and much, much more. Close contact is required. Also, it seemed like there must be more that could be done. So, we put our heads together with the guys, their families and the house coordinator, and we came up with what we think are some good ideas that we would like to share with the rest of you.

A sign by a front door reads Please wash your hands and disinfect your phone first thing each time you enter the house. Thank you!

This friendly sign reminds everyone who enters the home what to do.

First, we put a friendly sign up right next to the front door that instructs everyone to wash their hands and disinfect their phone each time they come into the house.

An infographic with details on how to thoroughly wash hands is posted on a bathroom wall next to a timer that lights up for 20 seconds while you wash your hands.

This device blinks for 20 seconds while you wash your hands.

To help people remember how long to wash their hands (20 seconds), we got a new little gadget that we attached to the wall next to the bathroom sinks. You push the button and it blinks for 20 seconds while you wash your hands. We also purchased plenty of nice soap that we placed near all of the sinks.

UV Sanitizer with an egg timer next to it on the counter.

This UV sanitizer works on anything small that needs to be cleaned without getting wet.

Next, we bought a UV Sanitizer. It’s big enough for phones, keys, glasses – anything that cannot get wet – to fit inside and be cleaned. It is safe, only takes 10 minutes to work – and it doesn’t make a sound. (We put a timer right next to the sanitizer so that everyone will know when the devices are cleaned.)

A switch on a tiled kitchen wall is covered in clear plastic, attached to the wall with removable picture-hanging strips.

A piece of plastic cut just larger than the size of the switch plate makes it easy to clean.

We picked up plastic from the hardware store to put over all of the switches (light, garbage disposal) to make them easy to clean, and we used removable strips made for hanging pictures to attach the plastic to the wall that won’t rip off paint when we’re ready to remove it. We got a multi-purpose cleaner that is sprayed on the plastic at least once a day (usually once every 8 hours). We also use this cleaner on the countertops. It’s non-toxic so that we’re not introducing toxins into the bodies of the attendants or our guys. And no one is getting sick from the smell from the spray or getting rashes on their hands!

Force of Nature multi-purpose cleaner.

Non-toxic cleaning products keep everyone safe without causing irritation.

Lastly, we have disposable gloves for the attendants and hand sanitizers throughout the house. We’re also very lucky that the sister of one of the guys makes her own gel hand sanitizer that doesn’t dry out your hands – it leaves your skin soft (minus the germs!).

This is a good example of how common sense and technology are helping us keep everyone healthy and safe.

What are your tips? Email us and tell us how you are staying safe and healthy.


Note: As the situation with COVID-19 unfolds, PATF will remain open. To continue to serve our community and also protect everyone’s health and safety, our staff are working remotely. Thank you in advance for your patience as it may take us a little longer than usual to return phone calls and emails. We remain committed to responding promptly and thoroughly and we hope you will continue to contact us if there is anything we can do to help you.