The COVID-19 Virus and the Vaccine Explained
As much as many of us hoped the start of a new year would bring some relief from the pandemic, we find ourselves still in its center. As a service provider to people with disabilities – many of whom are at high-risk of complications from COVID-19 – Reimagine has adapted to safely continue services and programs, as many of our participants have shifted to online activities and learning.
It can be difficult for many of our participants to understand the lingering threat of the coronavirus. They may not grasp the concept of a vaccine and how it will work; or that it will still be necessary to wear a mask after getting the vaccine. To help people with cognitive disabilities better understand COVID-19 and the vaccine, Reimagine offers the following simplified questions and answers.
What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is a short way of saying Coronavirus Disease 2019. Its nickname is the coronavirus. It is a virus that is very easy to get and it can make you very sick. So, it is important to protect yourself by wearing masks when you leave your homes, washing your hands regularly and keeping six feet away from people who don’t live with you.
What is the COVID-19 vaccine and how does it work?
The COVID-19 vaccine is a medicine that helps protect you from getting COVID-19. It requires two shots in the arm. After you get your first shot, you will need a second shot 3 to 4 weeks later. After your second shot, it will take a few weeks before you build up protection from the virus. Your arm may be sore after getting the shot, or you may feel slightly tired or even have a fever. This is all normal!
Do I have to keep wearing a mask after I have had the COVID-19 vaccine?
YES, even after you’ve had both of your shots, it is important to keep wearing a mask when you are out in public or around people who don’t live in your home. It will take many months before everyone who wants the vaccine can get it, so we need to make sure we all stay protected while we wait for everyone to have their turn!
For more information about the COVID-19 vaccine and availability in Orange County, visit the OC Health Care Agency website or talk to your healthcare provider.
Take care and stay safe!
Participants Strive to Achieve Physical Therapy Goals During the Pandemic
Even with stay-at-home orders over the past year, some participants who had been receiving physical therapy (PT) from Reimagine have found ways to make progress when they couldn’t attend in-person PT sessions, while others have been working hard in-center in recent months to regain lost ground.
Reimagine provides PT services for all levels of physical functionality to participants with intellectual/developmental, neurologic and/or other physical disabilities – all tailored to the unique needs of each individual. Participants have customized plans and goals, so whether a participant wants to increase functionality, be more upright or gain independence, our therapists craft a plan to get them there.
When the COVID-19 pandemic stay-at-home orders forced Reimagine to halt all in-center physical therapy for six months. PT participants went without direct, hands-on therapy, treatment, and physical guidance from licensed therapists. Some participants did their best to try to keep up with their exercises at home.
In September 2020, Reimagine was able to begin providing in-person PT on an appointment basis. It took about two months for returning participants to get back to baseline – and now these participants are demonstrating significant improvement. Some participants who weren’t walking in September, now are! Upon initial return to in-person PT, the level of de-conditioning was evident and significant. Reimagine’s physical therapists worked diligently and patiently with each participant to get them back to baseline and beyond.
Here are just a few of our PT participant success stories:
C.S, 57, has Multiple Sclerosis, Head Injury and Quadriplegia
Goal: To continue exercising and increasing her range of motion to allow for more independence with daily activities and enhance her quality of life.
C.S. began receiving therapy services from Reimagine in April 2017. After lockdown, C.S returned to PT weak and short of breath. She needed a lot of manual assistance from two therapists just to take a couple of steps at a time. Now, she does several laps up and down the parallel bars – a distance of 12 feet each way!
Hugo, 42, has a C5 injury to his spinal cord
Goal: To increase his strength to allow for standing, walking without assistance and better range of motion
Hugo was very motivated and a super hard worker. He attempted to continue his PT program at home; but lacked the guidance and equipment to sustain his progress. When he returned for in-center PT, Hugo could only complete four laps on the parallel bars. He has since doubled his distance and will be advancing to an assistive device like a walker or a cane soon.
Edwin, 36 age, intellectual/development disability, cerebral palsy
Goal: To improve mobility to keep up with his active, four-year-old daughter
Confined to a wheelchair and largely immobile, Edwin was unable to stand and could barely crawl when he began receiving PT at Reimagine in July 2019. Now he can stand for several minutes at a time and is developing greater strength in his legs. Edwin is a great example of what hard work can achieve.
We celebrate the progress of all our PT participants
To learn more about Reimagine’s Physical Therapy program call (714) 633-7400 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Learning is Forever and For All of Us
By Marsalee Malatesta, Chief of Services, Health and Wellness, Reimagine
On the surface, people with disabilities may seem completely different than people without disabilities. But dive deeper, and you’ll find that people with disabilities are just like you and me in many ways. They need to connect, to maintain relationships and to be nurtured physically, mentally and emotionally. And after more than 20 years of working at Reimagine, I’m still learning daily, but here’s what I’m certain of: We need each other to keep developing into our best selves.
That desire to keep learning is a big part of being able to successfully work with people with disabilities. You have to believe in the value of what you’re teaching them, and they have to believe you want to be there for them. You must have an innate passion for the field and empathy to be able to validate people with disabilities and understand their situations. You need to be all in.
The rewards of this work are doled out in life-changing moments. After a nine-year hiatus from full-time work at Reimagine, I returned to the Orange campus as Program Director. A participant I’d worked with back in 1997 came in for her regular therapies and recognized me. She was elated and so was I. She said I had saved her life – the ultimate expression of gratitude.
Just a few weeks ago, one of my staff had a breakthrough with a participant, who in her late forties, used a new app on her tablet to learn to say the “th” sound, after struggling to pronounce it her entire life. She is still learning, and so are we.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, despite the disruption and lingering uncertainty, we are still making gains. As long as we all stay open to learning, are ready to adapt and stay connected, Reimagine will continue helping participants reach their full potential.
Chief of Services, Marsalee Malatesta oversees day programs and outpatient clinical services for adults with intellectual, developmental and neurological disabilities. Her teams provide social service intervention, nursing intervention plus physical, speech and occupational therapies.
It’s safe to say we have all struggled to adjust to the sweeping social, economic and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the nondisabled population, reports of heightened depression and anxiety from the isolation, loneliness and other aftershocks of the pandemic reflect the importance of connection and socialization to our overall health.
Now imagine navigating this pandemic as a person with intellectual or developmental disabilities (I/DD); a person who thrives on structure and interaction with others. A daily routine, activities and social connection are vital to continued learning, confidence and overall well-being. Yet this vulnerable population, many with underlying medical conditions, are receiving far less, if any, supportive services since the pandemic started.
For many who need in-person care, and who have lost the support of trained caregivers or community service providers, the isolation can be devastating. Because it’s been challenging to provide in-person services, activities and jobs that are vital to emotional health, those with I/DD and their caregivers are at particular risk of the harmful effects of isolation.
Without these essential services, people with I/DD cannot always find other ways to socialize. Such disruption in routine, coupled with isolation, can lead to behavioral changes, including withdrawing, acting out physically or being more confrontational. Beyond the immediate impact, there’s also the potential for long-term effects that will take time to reverse. A key aspect of our services is helping people develop life skills—and months of isolation will likely mean people with disabilities experience regression.
For families that may already be stretched thin by stress, economic uncertainty and lack of patience, taking on the additional responsibility of emotional and physical progress for their I/DD family member can be too much to bear.
Reimagine continues to serve its clients with online programming. And appointment-based, in-person physical, occupational and speech therapies, as well as children’s programming are being offered under strict COVID-19 safety protocols.
We look forward to the day when we can welcome our participants, existing and new, back with open arms. What a day that will be!
For more about the pandemic’s impact on people with disabilities, click here to listen to an interview on KSBR 88.5 FM radio with Reimagine team members – Dr. Glenn Motola, PSY.D., CEO and Savitha Creel, Program Coordinator.