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Connections - 01.28.21

A Free Tool to Help Determine Risks of Social Interactions for People with I/DD in the midst of COVID

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by Dr. Craig Escudé, President, HRS, Inc.

Research shows that people who have intellectual or developmental disabilities (I/DD) are up to three times more likely to die from COVID-19 and its complications when compared to people without I/DD. There also risks associated with the effects of social distancing like loneliness and disruptions in services providing educational or therapeutic support. There must be a way to help decide whether it’s appropriate for people with I/DD to continue on with certain social activities connecting them with others which helps reduce risks of isolation, depression and anxiety associated with limited social contact.

Health Risk Screening’s Clinical Advisory Team has developed a decision making support tool to help those who support people with I/DD evaluate the risks and benefits to returning to certain activities. The Risk/Benefit Return to Activity Form addresses several key areas of risk, such as personal, situational and health risks, to help determine whether the benefits of attending a certain activity outweigh the potential harm. Each section of the form includes questions such as:

  • Can the person follow the social distancing protocol of remaining six feet away from others independently?
  • Is the level of community spread in the location of the activity considered reasonable by health authorities?
  • Does the person have any immunocompromising conditions?

The benefits are also weighed with questions like:

  • Is socialization important to help manage or improve the person’s anxiety, mood, mental status, behavior or mental health disorder?
  • Does the person earn a wage when participating in this activity?

Support personnel who complete this form as part of team meetings can then share it with primary decision-makers to come to a consensus as to whether or not the risks of participation outweigh the benefits. The form is available as a free download for anyone to use. You can download the fillable PDF form here. It can be a way to help document that a well-thought out rather than arbitrary decision was made regarding participation in various activities.

About the Author: Dr. Craig Escudé is a board-certified Fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American Academy of Developmental Medicine, and is the President of Health Risk Screening, Inc. He served as medical director of Hudspeth Regional Center in Mississippi and is the founder of DETECT, the Developmental Evaluation, Training and Educational Consultative Team of Mississippi. He has more than 20 years of clinical experience providing medical care for people with I/DD and complex medical conditions and is the author of “Clinical Pearls in I/DD Health Care” and the “Curriculum in I/DD Health Care.”