Advancing the Treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease with Telehealth

Senior man using digital tablet sitting on sofa

Role of Telehealth in Caring for the Patient

Virtual visits can be essential to the standard Alzheimer’s disease (AD) care regimen – amid the coronavirus pandemic and post-pandemic.  The International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry highlighted that the use of telehealth could help not only by making earlier diagnosis, monitoring those who live in remote places, but also by following up with patients through the development of the disease, giving support to them and their caregivers, and thus improving their quality of life.

Receiving convenient access to AD care is beneficial for patients who live in rural areas, patients who are unable to travel to a specialist’s location, and patients who have multiple chronic conditions and co-morbidities.   As noted in the Journal, virtual visits can have significant impact on the delivery of timely, quality care to these patients across the continuum of care:

  • For patients who live in rural and/or underserved areas, virtual consults can help with remote diagnosing.
  • As AD patients are typically cared for in the home setting, moving an AD patient to an unfamiliar place such as a medical office or a new setting may trigger extreme anxiety and distress, and could potentially cause physical harm. Virtual visits can help the patient remain at home while also facilitating the ongoing monitoring of the patient’s mental function and evolving the care accordingly.
  • For patients who face limitations in accessing medical care or suffer from rare medical disorders which makes travel a challenge, the use of telehealth enables specialists to extend their reach and support into other communities.
  • As it is critical that the broader care team remains informed about the patient’s condition, virtual check-ins can drive better care coordination while also providing on-demand learning opportunities for home health care nurses and personal care aides who are routinely caring for the patient.

 

Role of Telehealth in Supporting the Caregiver

Given the responsibility of caring for a loved one with AD, family caregivers encounter physical and emotional stress which can negatively impact their own well-being.

“Effective care can be delivered through telehealth and offers the advantage of being often more convenient for busy caregivers,” Katherine L. Possin, PhD, associate professor of neurology in the Memory and Aging Center at the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences, told Healio Primary Care.  “This is especially important in dementia because families may live a long distance from dementia specialists, or the patient with dementia may have difficulty traveling to provider appointments due to their disease.”

With a telehealth app, caregivers can conveniently access the home health care team on-demand and feel less isolated and anxious regarding their physical exhaustion, fears and frustrations in providing their loved ones with the optimal care.  Home health agencies can use HIPAA-compliant messaging and video to coach the caregiver on a regular basis, deliver compassionate care to the patient during virtual visits, and also provide timely direction and guidance as the patient’s situation changes.

Patients’ out-of-town family members can also be included in the virtual visits with the home health nurse and specialists. These virtual visits allow remote family to become more involved in their loved ones’ care while alleviating the guilt often associated with not living close enough to provide hands-on support.

With virtual care, home health agencies can provide reassurance, counseling, and comfort to improve the caregiver’s confidence, skillset, and quality of life.

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