Supporting adults with complex disabilities and their caregivers during COVID19

Ms Karen Phipps1, Ms Carlee Holmes1,2, Ms Megan Marmo1

1St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, Fitzroy, Australia, 2Physiotherapy Department Monash University, Frankston, Australia

Adults with complex disabilities are at risk of progressive health and wellbeing issues impacting quality of life, carer burden and early mortality. Many are reliant on external support workers to provide essential care, necessitating close contact with, and reliance upon a highly mobile and casualised workforce. Disruption to the provision of care has the potential to cause a deterioration in physical and mental health, and further increase the burden of informal supports, notably ageing parents.

Patients attending the Young Adult Complex Disability Service (YACDS), a transition service between paediatric and adult healthcare, were vulnerable to physical and mental health deterioration during COVID19.  To minimise the multiple risks COVID19 presented to this patient population, accessible education, support, advice and resources were needed.

Patients attending the YACDS primarily have a diagnosis of cerebral palsy (CP), of which 70 % are classified as GMFCS IV and V, and are non-ambulant and dependent on the assistance of at least one person for all activities of daily living.

All patients attending the YACDS were initially contacted by phone with the identification of risk factors that may contribute to deterioration of physical and /or mental health .Targeted strategies were implemented to reduce the likelihood of COVID19 infection and the impact of social isolation/social distancing on the physical and mental wellbeing of patients and their carers.

An overwhelming positive response to the targeted and individualised interventions provided by the YACDS multidisciplinary clinical team was gained, with the provision of essential face to face care made possible for some reducing the risk of complications.


Karen is the Disability Liaison Officer for St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne (SVHM). Prior, she was the team leader of the Young Adult Complex Disability Service for thirteen years. She has worked as a physiotherapist in Australia, the United Kingdom and New Zealand.

Karen’s particular areas of clinical interest are; person centred care, consumer partnership and advocacy, particularly for people with disability. She is a member of the SVHM Partnering with Consumers Quality Standards Committee, and advisor to the SVHM Diversity and Inclusion Steering Committee.

Carlee is the senior physiotherapist in the Young Adult Complex Disability Service (YACDS) at St. Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne.

Carlee has a particular interest in the measurement of postural asymmetry in non-ambulant adults with cerebral palsy and is currently completing a PhD investigating “Assessment and Management of the common postural characteristics in young adults with Cerebral palsy”.  She has also gained additional certification in Postural Care and Measurement of Body Symmetry.

Carlee is a research associate for CP Achieve and involved in the consumer working group.  She is also a member of the American Academy for Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine Lifespan committee

Meg Marmo is an Occupational Therapist, job sharing a leadership role as the Disability and Pain Stream Manager – Health Independence Programs at St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne.

Meg is passionate about continuous improvement and quality service delivery with over 20 years’ experience in public health.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Recent Comments