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Families cope with loved ones on lockdown at special needs facilities

Posted at 2:01 PM, Apr 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-13 23:23:21-04

BOCA RATON, Fla. — There is a new push to help people with cognitive disabilities as they and their caretakers face new challenges because of the coronavirus.

Families are still having to cope without seeing loved ones, but it is not just seniors.

Ronni Sommer has not seen her 28-year-old son, Matthew, who has special needs, in person in more than a month.

"It's an awful feeling, especially in this situation," said Sommer. "It eats my heart out."

JARC Florida, which provides services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, was placed on lockdown because of the coronavirus.

Matthew, who has Fragile X syndrome and autism, lives in a group home for people with developmental disabilities.

“The families are struggling because they can’t see them because we’ve implemented a lockdown,” said Jeffrey Zirulnick the CEO of JARC Florida.

Zirulnick said the pandemic is impacting their clients’ routine, which can cause severe anxiety.

They have temporarily stopped their day care program that provided job-training and other activities to 200 clients.

“They don’t always have the ability to be flexible, so now you have the family member as the 100 percent contact, on a day to day basis, and they have to come up with those activities,” said Zirulnick.

However, he says some help is on the way.

“We are getting ready to roll out some virtual programming for them that they can use in the homes as a way of trying to support them,” said Zirulnick.

“It’s a conversation that needs to be had. It’s not just about those folks living in nursing homes. It’s not about just about having your typical child at home with you and doing virtual school. It’s very, very different and it’s very very, hard,” said Sommer.