Ruth Joseph misses hanging out with her boyfriend and friends at her Winnipeg condo, where the 35-year-old likes to play board games and card games. “I like Monopoly Deal: it’s quicker than the actual board game.” She also misses going to the gym and hanging out at her favourite coffee shop. COVID halted Ruth’s volunteer jobs at a personal care home and Sam’s Place bookstore and café. But Ruth continues to volunteer along with her mother, Susan Cearns, 66, who is retired, with a breakfast program at an elementary school.
What Susan misses from before COVID is seeing family members: “I haven’t been able to see my grandchildren except from afar since November,” says Susan, who lives in a house in East St. Paul, outside of Winnipeg. When COVID hit in March 2020, they decided that Ruth would temporarily move in with Susan. Ruth says she moved in because her mother was “lonely.” Susan says she felt nervous that the support workers who normally help Ruth at her condo with meal planning, grocery shopping and other chores could bring a risk of COVID exposure.
Because Ruth has Down syndrome, her mother fears Ruth is more likely to be hospitalized and more likely to die if she gets COVID-19. Along with other disability advocates, Susan has been asking the provincial government to ensure people with Down syndrome are prioritized for the vaccine. Right now they’re eligible in the 50 to 64 age range, meaning Ruth will have to wait for her age range to be called.
Susan has her vaccination appointment booked for mid-April. “I’m signed up. I’m happy. But it’s not for two weeks. It’s the only time in my life I wished I were older,” says Susan. “If I could, I would give my appointment to Ruth. Like other parents of young adults with Down syndrome, I want her to be vaccinated.” Once Susan has gotten the shot and two weeks have passed, she looks forward to feeling a little more comfortable when she goes to the grocery store and pharmacy. “I hope my daughter in Calgary can come home this summer. Her trip home for Christmas was cancelled,” says Susan. “What I’m really looking forward to is resuming our weekly Sunday dinners when it’s safe to do so. My kids in Winnipeg and grandkids normally come over then.”
As the pandemic eases, Susan hopes that people will be understanding as everyone resumes their normal activities in their own time: “Be kind and understanding when people are nervous about getting together. Some may still be coming in by Zoom or turning down social invitations. I may be one of those.” Susan also reminds people who are deciding if they want the vaccination that the goal is to keep the community safe: “You’re not only getting vaccinated for yourself, but to keep your kids, your neighbours, and your grandmother safe. There’s a whole group of people around you who you’re keeping safe.” That will let both Ruth and Susan get back to the activities that they miss.