The national Association of the Deafblind (DLAN) implements training and social rehabilitation, personal assistance, information, self-help, counselling and advocacy for peope with deafblindness. Due to the restrictions implemented at national level, the Association had to close their day care centres and instead professionals are available by telephone or email and create adapted information for people using the service about the spread of the virus, daily hygiene and other support measures.
During this crisis, it is still crucial for people with deafblindness to maintain contact and connection with their social network, which is often small. Personal assistants have been provided with personal protective equipment (PPE) to continue to fulfil their role following the hygiene and safety measures recommended by the national government.
The Korak Centre in Kranj provides social care, employment support and health care for persons with acquired brain injuries. Due to the measures introduced by national authorities, Korak had to suspend their on-site services from the 12th March and switched to provide assistance and psychosocial support remotely. People using the centre services are called regularly to monitor their wellbeing, and they are encouraged to contact the centre by email.
The Project Human Society involves support for those with addictions in outpatient and residential programmes. In residential facilities, until they were provided with PPE, they had to work with residents to sew masks. They have been implementing recommendations regarding distancing between users and employees, all hygiene instructions (including disinfection, washing, or no personal contact) and banning gatherings in common areas.
They have also adapted their programmes to national authorities guidelines. For outpatient programmes with children and adolescents, support is now taking place via phone and email counselling. Professionals from these programmes have been moved to support residential support in times of need. In residential facilities, work is organised in a way that supports staff with children at home. Residents are provided with opportunities to communicate with relatives and friends through phone and video calls. Exits are only authorised for emergency reasons and carried out with equipped vehicles from the organization.
How the crisis has affected their social services
While the programmes of the Association of the Deafblind are a source of connection, acceptance, inclusion, and new skills acquisition, the current crisis has meant for participans distress, isolation and onset of mental health problems. Fearing for their own health, some users have self-isolated and refused all personal contact.
At the Human Society project, the crisis has impacted in particular facilitating contact of parents in rehabilitation with their children. This causes distress for both parents and children who may not have personal contact for a significant period of time affecting their wellbeing due to feelings of loneliness, fear and sadness.
Own specific programmes
For the Association, maintenance of the personal assistants programme has been key to ensure that people with deafblindness are properly supported.
The Korak Centre has been producing an online newspaper with contributions from staff, volunteers, people using services and their relatives since the 17th of March. The platform intends to motivate service users to positive thinking and implement activities such as safe exercise, shopping or preparing meals. The aim of the initiative is to providence guidance to stay safe and ensure that people who were regular users of the service do not feel lonely.
Individually tailored exercises are also e-mailed one to three times a week by occupational therapists, psychologists, or neurophysiotherapists, while free coaching and discussions are also provided to staff by a therapist. At the Centre, they hope that in this way they may be able to prevent additional healthcare demand and hospitalisations.
At the Human Society Project, while they carry on counselling and therapy appointments as they used to, these can only take place remotely. This has so far worked, but there has been an increase in numbers of users in need which has become a source of concern for future rehabilitation programmes.