For Individuals with Disabilities, Prolonged Isolation Can Lead to Mental Health Struggles


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Individuals with functional needs because of disability are coping with the loss of social and therapy systems due to the pandemic

PHOENIX Anna Del Giudicer has become a familiar face to those who enter the doors at United Cerebral Palsy of Central Arizona (UCP) where she attends the Adult Day Program and volunteers at the front desk, greeting visitors and signing people in and out. But when coronavirus made its way to the states earlier this year, UCP had to shift to providing services online, leaving many like Del Giudicer isolated from the programs and social interactions they rely on.

Diagnosed with cerebral palsy as a toddler and moving to Arizona to live with her brother, Paul, Del Giudicer has attended the Adult Day Program at UCP for over a year, working with staff to meet personal and educational goals. Closing in on her 50th birthday, she is unsure of when she will get to see her friends at the center face-to-face again.

“While attending the program, I am able to participate in everyday activities as well as taking field trips out into the community,” she shares. “But right now, the center is closed. We are just sitting in my group care home, waiting.”

In a recent poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation, 72 percent of Americans say the pandemic has disrupted their daily lives, while 45 percent shared that there has been a negative impact to their mental health due to worry and stress.

For those like Del Giudicer who are homebound or live in group homes, the closure of day programs and therapy centers removes what interactions they did have. In group home settings, residents are often expected to stay in their rooms to limit contact and the potential spread of the virus. They’re also not able to visit family for lengthy periods of time, Del Giudicer and Paul have had to communicate by phone and during brief visits.

“It’s hard on me because mostly every other weekend I’m at his house, and right now I can’t,” she shares.

While organizations physically remain closed to protect the health of those they serve, many have started offering virtual services and programs to fill the void for those in need.

“I have a computer, I’m on it practically every day now,” Del Giudicer shares. “I’m connecting via Zoom, they call me and I respond.”

In order to keep herself busy at her group care home, she has spent her time on the computer or creating art. They get to go out to the backyard to enjoy the weather, but for the protection of the residents they are only permitted to go one at a time.

Since 1952, United Cerebral Palsy of Central Arizona continues to prove they are more than the name. With an array of specialists and experts in the field, UCP impacts the lives of more than 3,000 differently abled people each year with the highest quality of care. To learn more about the services, events or how to help, head to ucpofcentralaz.org.

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