Telemedicine is Key for Elderly Patients
Even before the start of coronavirus shutdowns, telemedicine was growing in popularity. But due to the health policies created to reduce infection rates, the telehealth industry has virtually exploded in the past six months. And for senior citizens, remote health is one of the best options for treatment today, given their risk of infection.
Whether one is taking care of a parent, or working at a senior center, understanding options for remote telehealth is important to safely providing care for older adults. Remote care takes a variety of forms: fitness, nutrition, mental health, physicals, and more can all be provided virtually. With the uncertainty of the virus’ future, it’s incredibly important to take advantage of using remote caretaking for older adults, as well as understand it’s role in the future of healthcare.
Telehealth Options for Seniors
What virtual caregiving is can range from live streaming services with live caregivers, technology platforms with remote monitoring systems, or a caregiver like Addison, a 3D caregiver with an interactive speech platform that comes with the ability to collect vitals, report emergencies, and monitor health decline.
One organization, the Foundation for Senior Living (FSL), is using live streaming technology to connect their therapists to their clients. FSL is a nonprofit organization based in Arizona that created an integrated system of care that allows adults to age in place through our continuum of home and community-based health services. Knowing their community needs them even more during this time, they’re now offering their Adult Day Health clients live and interactive recreational classes through televëda, as well as provide at-home caregiving from FSL therapists. And thanks to Phoenix Suns Charities, FSL clients receive all of these services free of charge.
The donation from Phoenix Suns Charities allows FSL’s recreational therapists to create more ways for clients to remain engaged from home. Caregiver tool kits, customized to each client’s cognitive and physical abilities, are being delivered to their homes. Additionally, in collaboration with Arizona State University’s Student Health Outreach for Wellness, FSL is creating a bi-weekly newsletter which provides health information, recipes, links to online programs, and an incredible calendar with suggested activities.
“There is no playbook for what we’re currently going through,” said Sarah Krahenbuhl, Suns Vice President of Social Responsibility and Executive Director of Phoenix Suns Charities. “We are part of an amazing community and we have the greatest teammates on our side, such as our friends at FSL, to help handle this adversity together.”
Virtual assistants are no longer an idea of the future. A Pew Report found that about 42 percent of adults aged 65 and older report owning a smartphone. This use has increased significantly since 2013–when a survey revealed that just 18 percent of seniors owned the devices–and it’s still continuing to rapidly grow. Though seniors may be hesitant about using technology, virtual assistants are a great resource for an increasingly tech-savvy generation.
Personal gadgets like Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Apple Home weren’t specifically created for seniors, but they’ve been making an impact in virtual care. For older adults with memory issues, Alexa can be a great resource to answer repeated questions, remind users about medication, and alarm setting. These devices can also be used for enjoyment, such as audio books and music, life enrichment that supports the health of seniors.
Virtual assistants can also help answer medical questions, call for medical assistance, or be used to contact one’s family. Whatever the usage, taking advantage of virtual assistant technology is a good option to consider when determining the best remote care for seniors.
Online Wellness Classes
Keeping seniors healthy and safe is the utmost priority for families and senior centers at the time. Fortunately, there are a plethora of resources for activities directors and families to use, depending on the needs and interests of seniors. Whether it’s for socialization, mental support, physical therapy, or maintaining physical health, online wellness classes are a great way to virtually care for seniors.
At televëda, we provide senior centers with our live streamed fitness, educational, and gaming classes that are two-way and interactive, and promote physical, social, and mental health. televëda understands that every community and senior is unique, which is why we also provide data reports tracking wellness and engagement to ensure a positive ROI.
Live streamed wellness classes allow seniors to maintain their health no matter their location or mobility. You can of course find classes online through YouTube or Facebook, but when content isn’t made specifically for seniors, it may not be the best choice given some of the specific needs of an older audience.
Benefits of Telehealth for the Elderly
Safety & Accessibility
Live streaming technology has many attributes that makes it a great resource for healthcare. First off, it’s immediate and interactive, meaning that patients and caregivers can talk in real time about any issues occurring. Secondly, seniors with mobility limitations can enjoy using the technology from wherever they are. Seniors without access to a car, or someone to drive them, no longer have to worry about making appointments, which makes it easier, faster, and more convenient for them to get care.
They can still speak with healthcare professionals about any of their issues and concerns, including joint pain, muscle stiffness, medications, and accident management and prevention. And even for seniors that don’t have physical or mental limitations, current health policies suggest that reducing outside contact can provide extra safety during this time.
According to a United States of Aging survey from the AARP, approximately 90% of seniors intend to stay in their current homes for the next five to ten years. Despite the challenges they face doing so (only 43% of respondents over 70 found it “very easy” to live independently) older adults understandably don’t want to lose their independence as they age.
By being affordable, accessible from one’s home, and consistently available, virtual caretaking extends the amount of time seniors can stay in their home. This is especially important because 61% of older adults polled say they would prefer to stay in their current home even if that means being consistently alone.
Better Physical, Social, Mental Health
However, being alone can lead to isolation and feelings of loneliness. Again, this is where virtual healthcare can shine. Virtual socialization and online wellness programs allow seniors to work on all facets of their health, even while living alone.
Live streamed workout classes, health visits, and socialization opportunities are endless online, and can be used to supplement any seniors current health routine where it’s needed. Has lots of friends but could be more active? Join a seated yoga class lead online. Fit as a fiddle, but a little lonely? Make virtual trivia the answer.
Benefits of Telehealth for Elderly Family Members
The cost of caregiving can be overwhelming for aging patients, their families and their caregivers. According to the United State’s financial demographics, as little as 3 percent of the country’s population has funds available to afford even part-time live care support. Telehealth can reduce this burden by providing low cost, and sometimes free options to help older family members. It can reduce costs for senior center communities as well.
If one does have in-person care, telehealth can alleviate the burden for the caregiver by providing direct access to healthcare professionals. If they have a question about caring for their loved one, they can use virtual assistants to contact licensed physicians or specialists using telemedicine live streaming software. Expensive emergency room visits can also be avoided when families are able to receive care directly from their home.
Having virtual help allows for more flexibility for familial or hired caretakers. With less appointments to attend and the added ease of making instant contact, caregiving becomes easier, no matter where the family is.
Telehealth helps at-home caregivers report on the condition of their loved one, giving healthcare providers insight into how they’re progressing over time, whether from disease, sickness, or through palliative care.
Flexibility & Peace of Mind
It also allows for peace of mind. You know your parents have instantaneous, consistent help, whether it’s Alexa telling them about the weather, or the reassurance of knowing they’re enjoying an online fitness class. Plus, when you can’t be there, due to the potential risk of illness for them, it’s a safer way to keep them healthy and happy.
The Future of Remote Care-taking for Senior Citizens
Recently, a bipartisan bill seeking to reduce barriers to implementing telehealth technologies in nursing homes is working its way through Congress right now. These actions are vital for the health of the elderly.
A lack of access to healthcare can be harmful for seniors, whether they’re at home, with family members, or in a senior community center. Providing virtual telehealth options is one of the most efficient ways to maintain older adults’ physical and mental wellness, and longevity, and reduces the care-taking burden on families and senior care staff alike.
televëda is a live streaming platform that provides online and in-person activity programming for senior centers and communities. Our mission is to reduce social isolation for the elderly by creating interactive, live streamed classes for seniors, that range from virtually visiting a sea turtle rescue center to learning dance techniques from TeamUSA. televëda supports healthy aging by promoting seniors’ physical, mental, and social health by using technological innovation to create community.