By now, your state officials have likely eased shelter-in-place policies to support return to work and community routines. In most instances, life “pre-COVID-19” will not resemble life “post-COVID-19”. So it’s important to have access to updated information and know how to approach community re-entry safely. Of course, mandated guidelines will vary by state and jurisdiction, but here are a few key things for you and your loved ones to keep in mind as we navigate our new normal…
When you plan an outing, have a purpose and know it beforehand.
Just a few months ago, it was so easy to go out and about town to run errands without worrying about being confined by time, space, and safety concerns. Perhaps while you were out, you passed a new store that you want to check out or remember that you forgot to pick up an item for a family member and decide to make a quick stop at the store. Times have changed. It is a lot harder to do things on a whim. Be sure you take inventory of the items you need or tasks you need to take care of before you leave the house. For me, it is helpful to do a quick scan of major areas around my home to jog my mind of anything that I may need to address.
Do your research before you head out.
Many stores, restaurants, and places of business are still operating under restrictions by their state, county, or town/city. Some places may have even instated their own rules to keep their employees as well as patrons safe. Restrictions could include changes in times of operation, occupancy rules, social distancing guidelines, or recommendations about personal safety attire (e.g., homemade masks, gloves, etc.). For example, maybe somewhere you frequented in the past requires you to wear a mask, stay 6 feet apart from others, and can only allow 30 people at a time in the building because there are immunocompromised employees working there. Whatever the case might be, know before you go to save time, be informed, and to protect yourself and others. Here are some resources at the state level for North Carolinians who are looking to head out.
Take only essentials with you:
Outings ideally should consist of as few people and items as possible right now to reduce exposure and contamination risks. Make sure you have your keys, wallet, form of payment for what you are going to buy, your phone, and any protective attire (mask, gloves). If you need to bring a bag or purse, make sure that it is something small. Hand sanitizer or alcohol based wipes are good to have, but hard to come by (most stores should be able to supply you with either of those upon entry). The fewer things you have access to manipulate during your trip the better. If you are able, shop by yourself or with one other person. Download a short checklist that you can refer back to if you need a visual to remind you of what to take with you into the community.
If you need a list, write, type, or download one:
An errand or shopping list also counts as an essential item to keep you on track for the day, and it can be created during the “planning your outing” phase. A few years ago, I would rely solely on written lists to track where I had to go and what I needed to do or buy. This may be a good option for some. I have since transitioned to tracking my lists on my phone. I will use a generic “Notes” or “Memos” app on my phone to track places I need to go. I stumbled upon an app called Bring! over a year ago which has been really useful for tracking shopping items. When I am out of something, I type it into the app and it generates an icon which represents my item. When I retrieve that item from the store, I simply tap on the icon and it disappears. Bring! also has some other useful features, such as creating lists for different settings (i.e., work vs. home), sharing lists with other users so that they can actively add to them, and it gives you recipe ideas! Feel free to checkout Bring! here, or if you prefer written lists, consider this template which provides general categories to help you organize the items that you need.
Stick to the rules, be mindful of others, and be patient.
This goes back to the concept of “doing your research beforehand”. The more you know about expectations before you leave the house, the better prepared you will be. However, things are changing rapidly by the day, hour, and minute. It is possible that what you researched does not meet your expectations when you get to your destination. THAT IS OKAY. Frustrating, but okay. Take a moment to regroup and follow the guidelines at that location and moment in time. We all have to practice a lot of flexibility and grace as our society navigates through numerous changes in a short amount of time, and it is not easy.
Have a plan in place when you get home.
Once you have completed your errands and have obtained the items you need, you need to get them and yourself back in the house! So how can you do that while also making safe decisions? Here’s how…
Hopefully, these suggestions can make community re-entry a bit easier for you and your family as we navigate this new way of life. If you have thoughts, suggestions, or other recommendations, please share! If you or a loved one needs help managing the time, organizational, and problem solving skills needed to create a routine, contact us at Cognition, Speech & Language for further support.
Devon Brunson, MS, CCC-SLP, CBIS
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