Telehealth Simplifies Support for Elderly Parents and Their Caregivers
Overall, seniors are living longer and a growing number have a strong desire to stay in their homes. This is something the more than 41 million Americans who are caregivers are dealing with right now. Helping aging parents and providing the in-home care that's necessary for aging in place is a challenging job. Being able to access information from home can provide better support for elderly parents and their caregivers, and better health care overall.
What Is Telehealth?
Telehealth is a broad term that describes remote health-related services and digital information accessed using technology. There are multiple types of telehealth, including:
- Telemedicine: Real-time conferencing between patient and doctor, two doctors, or other health care providers
- Mobile health: Tracking health data and submitting it to health care providers via mobile device or health care solutions accessed using smart devices and apps
- Remote patient monitoring: Wearable technology collects and transmits health data including oxygen levels, blood sugar, and blood pressure to health care providers
Benefits for Elderly Parents
All too often, aging in place comes with its share of challenges, not the least of which include increased health concerns and more appointments needed to keep up with them. For elderly parents, telehealth benefits include the ability to take control of their own scheduling without relying on caregivers to take them to and from appointments. In addition to an increased sense of independence, remote health monitoring helps aging parents stay in their homes longer.
Benefits for Caregivers
Telehealth enables seamless access to health records and professionals who can answer questions, customize health management plans, and offer advice. There's no need to make long drives or face the obstacles of a mobility-challenged patient, so making appointments is simpler and less stressful. Additionally, caregivers don't need to worry about exposure to germs for themselves or their parents.
How Caregivers Use Telehealth to Care for Elderly Parents
Telehealth has the power to improve the quality of care elderly parents receive. There are many ways to use telehealth:
General health care
Not every ailment requires an in-person visit, which makes telehealth particularly helpful. Telehealth makes it easy to consult with professionals about symptoms, managing medications, and receiving screenings for ailments and diseases.
Chronic disease management
Sensors, activity monitors, and other remote monitoring technology allows health care teams to monitor vital signs and data including glucose levels, activity, blood pressure, and weight. This gives providers insight into the disease's progression while giving caregivers access to advice about any mental or physical changes to expect.
Telehealth enables caregivers to receive important feedback from their parent's medical team. It also provides access to valuable advice while allowing the patient to feel more empowered and in control of his or her care.
Tips for Preparing for a Telehealth Appointment
Telehealth appointments are a valuable tool for in-home care. Caregivers can best prepare for an upcoming appointment by using this checklist:
- Test the tech: Whether using a phone, tablet, or computer, make sure the camera is working and the audio and video will be clear during the appointment. Don't forget to charge the device first.
- Get familiar with the software: Many telehealth visits use an app or special software; others use common videoconferencing apps or standard telephone lines. Knowing how to connect and being able to navigate the process provides a smoother experience.
- Pick a location: Find a spot with limited distractions and good lighting to allow the doctor to see the patient and, if necessary, the caregiver. Prop the device on a shelf or stack of books if needed.
- Be prepared: Make a list of symptoms, questions, or concerns. Having a rough outline of what caregivers and/or patients want to talk about to the health care professional helps ensure everything gets covered.
- Gather documents: Have a list of current medications handy along with the pharmacy phone number and address, insurance information, the parent's primary care doctor's name and number, and payment information if needed.
Telehealth doesn't just simplify support, it also has the power to improve health care for elderly parents. It can be used for preventive care and disease maintenance to connect patients and their caregivers with health care professionals in an easy, but meaningful way.