Care centres for PwD whose caregivers test COVID positive needed
There are many disabled people across Tamil Nadu who are affected when their caregivers are tested positive for COVID-19. The state disability commissioner is stepping up to reach out to such people by requesting officials to open special care centers for disabled people during the COVID-19 times.This is a much needed initiative.
The spread of COVID-19 virus has clearly affected disabled people in many ways. There are thousands of people with disabilities who need help from their caregivers which can be parents, relatives or even a paid caretaker. So when they are tested positive for COVID-19, people with disabilities are left without any help to even do their day to day activities. The situation only gets worse for those from economically backward families. In a letter to Chennai Corporation and district officials, Tamil Nadu Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities Johny Tom Varghese highlights the need for COVID-19 special care centers for disabled.
Heart-warming story of R Mahendran
23-year-old R Mahendran from Tiruvottiyur, Chennai, has Down syndrome and fully relies on his mother for his day-to-day activities. On 17 May, his mother Sheela* (name changed) was tested positive for the virus. A few days later, his father Rajasekhar was put on home quarantine after testing positive as well. Though Mahendran was tested negative, his mother was anxious about who would look after her son. Mahendran did not even know what was happening around him.
The family requested their relatives to take care of Mahendran, but were refused as they were afraid of catching the virus. Sheela was mentally stressed out during her treatment. Although she tested negative a few days after treatment, she could not return home immediately as she had to be watched for five days for a possible relapse.
Thanks to the support of disability rights activist S Namburajan, the family received some support.
When I approached Chennai Corporation officials, they said that they will put Mahendran in a community center. But how can someone with an intellectual disability survive on his own in such a place? Mr Radhakrishnan IAS, Special Officer for COVID-19 in Chennai reached out to us after consulting officials. But Mahendran knows only his parents and needs help. We wanted the boy to be allowed in the hospital or the mother at home. Even that was not allowed. – S Namburajan, General Secretary, Tamil Nadu Association for the Rights of All Types of Differently-Abled and Caregivers
“The government must take steps to help us during such tough times and officials must also be sensitised to take care of needs of disabled people”, adds Namburajan.
Much needed initiative
Mahendran has re-united with his mother and he is the happiest now! But there are hundreds of such cases across India that goes unnoticed. That is why state governments must step up and do their bit to help disabled people.
In Tamil Nadu alone, there are more than 11 lakh people with disabilities who are dependent on their caregivers. They need extra care and attention during tough times like these. The Chennai Corporation has agreed to open COVID-19 centres for disabled, but not special care centres for disabled people whose caregivers are under treatment.
Smita Sadasivan, a prominent disability rights activist from Tamil Nadu, says some thought must be given to supporting children and youth with disabilities.
“Parents of children with disabilities can be home-quarantined if asymptomatic. They can also be given facilities such as video calling their children with disability. Close support circles of such children must be explored. External care giver support must also be provided if needed. The state disability department must adopt mechanisms to ensure that daily activities and other needs of the child are taken care of”, she says.
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