It’s now three weeks since our family made the decision to remove BJ from his day program and to self-isolate. Hubby has been working from home and AJ’s school has moved to classes online. Our decision to go into self-isolation was due to the lack of possible social distancing when BJ needs assistance with his day-to-day needs from support workers when he’s not in our care. I knew self-isolation would be difficult for BJ but it has been harder than anticipated. This has been made more difficult as restrictions have tightened. I’m all for tight restrictions to save lives so the only one I’ve struggled with is not being able to go for a drive. That’s something we’ve been doing a lot of until about two days ago. It settled BJ and it revitalised me.
I’ve found it interesting reading about others in self-isolation, how they are managing and what they are doing to cope so thought I’d put together a few thoughts on our situation.
THE BALANCING ACT
Having everyone at home is proving a balancing act. Hubby heads off each day as he would if he was going to the office but works in a semi-detached cottage which means he has an uninterrupted day which works well. AJ has a tougher time because BJ expects if she’s home that they can be together. BJ bum shuffles up to her room on a regular basis to check on her availability which I’m conscious is interrupting her studies but impossible to stop. When AJ has a Zoom class (video lesson), I was taking BJ out for a drive. In the last week though this has become difficult with only essential travel permitted. Shopping and work is the only permissible essential travel in our state.
We live in a hilly area so it’s not easy to go for a walk when pushing someone in a manual wheelchair. When Hubby is home we go to the local park but with no path the grass is hard to push over.
When it’s just BJ and I we’ve been driving somewhere to go for an accessible walk while maintaining social distancing. In fact we’d been having a lovely time exploring different areas each day but it seems that’s temporarily curtailed. Those drives were keeping both of us sane. It was easier on my body to go out for a drive for a while and BJ was much happier. It can’t be underestimated what a toll it takes on the body when there is no additional support available.
Before the additional restrictions we were finding a contact-less activity each day which was a little different. We took drives to catch a car ferry (punt) which was free and required people to stay in their vehicle at all times. As we are not going to the shops for groceries we enjoyed picking up veggies and flowers from roadside stalls with honesty boxes for payment and we took many accessible walks. It was good for both of us.
Interacting with people is BJ’s favourite past time. That has been temporarily removed from his life and he’s missing it so much, as I imagine many people are during this difficult time. We are fortunate to have many people involved in his life that understand and they’ve gone out of their way to help. This week he’s had a video sent to him by an ex support worker which was a lovely personal chatty short video with a tour of her new apartment which BJ enjoyed. Over the weekend he had three Facetime calls, two with favourite support workers and one with his Aunty and Uncle which he really loved. Other friends have caught up over Zoom and sent videos too. Every bit helps him feel connected to his usual world.
BJ’s driver Melisa normally sees him 4-5 times a week so he’s really missed his time with her. Melisa is now doing our shopping for us so drops groceries at our house twice a week. BJ sits at the door keen to interact but obviously unable to do so. When Melisa was due to drop groceries over on the weekend we popped BJ into our car in the driveway. It meant he could safely see and hear Melisa from behind glass. It isn’t the same but it was an interaction and he seemed thrilled.
It’s been extremely difficult living next door to my parents and not having contact. They have been in isolation for over a month now as I felt we were too greater risk to them. The loss that left in BJ’s life in particular is immeasurable, so it was wonderful to have our doctor’s blessing to reunite after our family had been fully isolated for 2 weeks. BJ couldn’t believe it when they popped through the gate and he could actually see them and hug them again.
FINDING NEW WAYS TO DO THINGS
Melisa, BJ’s driver, has been doing our grocery shopping for us. As we’ve run out of activities I’ve ordered things online with Big W and Kmart and she’s been able to pick up the parcel in store with the click and collect facility. I’m so used to being able to pop up to the shops and get what I need it’s taken some adjusting to planning. I stocked up well on activities for the kids before we isolated but with so much time at home, and being keen to get everyone doing things other than watching TV and playing games on devices, we’ve needed lots of extra supplies.
More stores seem to be adapting well to the current climate. We found Bunnings (hardware store) now offers click and collect where they will bring it to the car so customers don’t need to go in store and can have contact less pick up.
The BPme app has allowed me to get petrol at the service station without any human contact. I downloaded the app, open it when I get to the service station (not all petrol stations offer the service) and select the pump number. The app unlocks the pump, I use a rubber glove to protect my hand while pumping the petrol and before I even get back in the car the app has taken payment and emailed me a receipt. I’m all for keeping humans in jobs but this has been a wonderful find during self-isolation.
It’s been lovely seeing the kids revel in the additional time they have together. They’ve had fun doing tie dye shirts together, gardening and just hanging out. They’ve always been close and we’re truly blessed that they both enjoy each other’s company so much. AJ has been a great help encouraging BJ to do things when he’s been otherwise resistant.
BJ has never been a fan of arts and crafts but particularly liked tie dye and is keen to do it again. Given the amount of time he spent working on gross motor skills it’s wonderful to revisit activities and try them again. I know some people would think the activities are not age appropriate, but I believe in fun and engaging activities for all ages so if he enjoys it, we’ll give it a whirl.
I thought self-isolation would be an ideal time to work a few therapy goals into our activities but BJ is wise to it and not keen. I get it, he’s done years of therapy so why would he want to ruin all this free time with “work”. He is a determined person but that determination comes from somewhere and therefore I’m not giving up either.
We’ve been on the receiving end of much kindness, including meals, baked treats and care packages being delivered to our door. It’s been heartwarming and each time they seem to arrive just when we are in need of a lift in spirits. Knowing how much these acts of kindness have meant to us, we’ve tried to pay it forward to others. We are limited in what we can do but a few care packages have made their way to other people’s doorsteps. I think we all need to know someone is thinking about us some time, but particularly at this difficult time.
OUR SELF-ISOLATION ENTERTAINMENT (SO FAR)
Self-isolation has been a roller-coaster. One day I’ll get to the end of the day and feel I’ve filled the day with fun and engaging activities and the next I’ll feel I’m failing and BJ will seem to be at the end of his tether with staying at home. I suspect this will be how we’ll continue to progress but as long as the good days punctuate the more difficult ones I think we’ll continue to adjust. We’ve had lots of fun as a family and the lack of opportunities outside of home has brought us back to basics. So here’s what we’ve been up to –
The kids have had fun cooking together.
We’ve spent time doing chalk drawings in the street. It’s fun to see it catching on with other families in our street, with the art expanding from house to house.
The lame car is my uninspiring drawing, I need to work on something more imaginative than rainbows, flowers and hearts!
Both the kids have started work on photo books. BJ’s book was mainly of his Gran and Grandad so he was thrilled when he was reunited with them to show off his hard work.
We had a fun afternoon of wheelchair races over bubble wrap. Everyone had a go but the power wheelchair was by far the noisiest and most successful of all. I think this is the best $8 I’ve spent in a long while (purchased at Reject shop).
There’s been some pranking going on in our house and it’s certainly given me a laugh. I guess we don’t usually have much time for pranks but I’m keen to embrace a bit of fun to balance out some of the doom and gloom we see each night on the news. And nothing screams fun than a bit of immature toilet humour including a Glad Wrap (clear film) incident with a toilet which sadly failed. Hubby got wise to it which was annoying. When I was hopping in the shower another night I was startled and then had a good giggle at the smoking toilet paper toilet set up which AJ had executed.
We joined the teddy bear hunt by putting teddy bears in our windows for children to spot on their walks and we keep an eye out for teddies when we are out for exercise. I’m all for anything that brightens and distracts kids from the current situation.
AJ wanted to try some blue hair highlights and without any school uniform regulations to stop her we thought we’d give it a go. It doesn’t show up well in photos but she’s happy with it.
AJ and I have also both indulged in doing some home facials with face and eye masks.
Our garden is starting to look like it’s had some love with sweet pea seeds planted, new garden beds and pansies in our front yard.
Whether we are at home or at the local park, BJ is always happy to kick around a soccer ball. It also uses up some energy which is great.
Self isolation is worth it for our family’s safety and that of the wider community. BJ is the one who has found it the most difficult and we’ll continue to do our best to help him feel connected to family and friends while engaging him with varied activities each day. We’ll definitely welcome the day we can go back to taking drives because this makes the world of difference to our days.
If you’ve got any ideas of activities, ways to stay connected or other tips to make isolation better, we’d love you to share them. We’ll continue to share our experiences in between travel tips, after all, we know everyone will be keen to get travelling as soon as this crisis is over and it’s deemed safe to do so. Now is a great time to research future trips.