The Impact of Telehealth on Elderly Communities: The Highs and Lows

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A recent survey—starring seniors eligible for Medicare—revealed that 60 percent of respondents were open to telehealth since the onset of the COVID epidemic. The seniors participating in the study used technology to facilitate their healthcare, further their health education, and communicate more frequently with family and friends.

Thirty percent of study respondents say they took advantage of telemedicine options at least once per month, while two out of three seniors said they hadn’t found a reason to use the service. Once seniors willingly agree to step into the 21st century, they should consider a senior-friendly phone like the Lively Flip from Lively Direct. That way, they can seamlessly contact their primary physicians and receive instant updates concerning their Telehealth visits.

The importance of telehealth for seniors

Telehealth allows patients and medical professionals to communicate and transfer data electronically. Merging technology and healthcare has provided seniors with easy-to-access healthcare. Telehealth enables seniors to avoid headache-inducing commutes by bringing the appointment to their doorstep.

One doctor notes seniors using telehealth seem more willing to comply with physician instruction and recommendations. Because the appointment process takes place in the comfort of their own home, seniors often feel more compelled to adhere to and follow individualized health plans. Seniors who choose to remain at home for routine doctor visits and follow-up evaluations are also subject to reduced medical care costs.

The increased usage of telemedicine in senior communities has been invaluable for doctors specializing in diagnosing age-related disabilities.  Telehealth increases visitation, enabling doctors to catch potential problems in their early stages of progression and take immediate action. Doctors also have more opportunities to track the progression of any preexisting conditions affecting senior health.

The full list of benefits telemedicine offers to seniors include:

  • A decreased in emergency room visits
  • Expedited healthcare services
  • Eliminates the need for external transportation assistance
  • More comfortable, enjoyable healthcare
  • Increases independence through direct physician contact

Shortcomings of telehealth impacting elderly folks

A virtual connection is a convenient comfort source for most—unless you’re technologically deficient in a global pandemic. Although a growing number of seniors are considering telehealth as a solution to complicated healthcare processes, many older Americans are still not comfortable with virtualized medicine. Merging technology—specifically virtual meet-ups—with health care is a relatively new phenomenon. 21st-century technological advancements leave many seniors feeling overwhelmed and resistant, causing them to opt-out altogether.  

The American Psychiatric Association has identified several obstacles for health care providers to overcome as they attempt to introduce seniors to telepath processes. Making new-age tech more accessible to seniors is the first step in increased comfortability and streamlined senior healthcare. 

Changes to motor and sensory functions

Motor and sensory changes come hand in hand with aging, making at-home telehealth appointments all the more necessary for senior health management. Appointments are not always accessible for seniors struggling with mobility. Having a comfortable, senior-friendly space—like a home living room—enables older folk to communicate directly with their physicians without the aches and pains of physical appointments. Doctors utilizing telemedicine suggest patients prepare a location free from distraction, background noise, and lighting issues. 

Changes in cognitive function

Cognitive distortions and disabilities are common among aging American populations.  However, mental disorders shouldn’t disqualify seniors from telehealth benefits. To help ill-equipped seniors, friends or family can step in and ensure their loved-one has accurately set up telehealth accounts and at-home video stations. Loved ones can also help seniors by sitting in and communicating with healthcare professionals.

Establishing rapport with patients 

Seniors will likely feel uncomfortable or experience awkwardness as they navigate telehealth and attend virtual appointments. Uneasy feelings may take some time to dissipate as patients familiarize themselves with technology, practice necessary tech skills, and adjust to virtual communication difficulties. Providers can assist struggling seniors by looking directly into the camera, articulating clearly, and expressing empathy. Physicians who employ senior aiding tactics establish good rapport and decrease miscommunication for an overall more enjoyable experience. 

Providing seniors with tech support

Healthcare providers can guarantee a comfortable, productive telehealth experience for seniors by confirming their virtual set up working correctly and aiding folks who need assistance.  Seniors should also understand what to expect from the telehealth experience before their first session to minimize frustration. 

The future of telehealth in senior living

The COVID-19 pandemic has become a catalyst for the expansive and innovative applications of telemedicine for seniors. One specific assisted living facility has streamlined the screening process, making it possible for potential prospects to complete the process before entering the home. Screening changes have ensured minimal virus transmission and made living-adjustments easier to manage.   

Other senior-service providers are using new-and-improved “teleconnection ecosystems” to better communicate with out-of-reach seniors and caretakers. Virtual connection systems keep all parties involved in-the-know throughout the enrollment process, which decreases stress and frustration.

Key takeaways

It is undecided whether lawmakers will update policies to expand the use of telemedicine once the pandemic has run its course. However, the possibility of telemedicine industries’ continued growth seems feasible as many lawmakers and government officials favor continued use. Healthcare professionals and caretakers should advocate for continued use.

Widespread pandemic-induced life adjustments have caused seniors to cozy up to the idea of receiving medical attention through telehealth. Looking forward, seniors stand to gain a great deal from telemedicine implementation projects. Health professionals and family members alike should facilitate a smoother transition to telehealth for their aging loved ones.

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