Mobility problems are far more common among senior-aged adults (as opposed to younger ones). At least 35% of seniors between 70-79 years of age, and most seniors aged 85 and older, have walking difficulties. Meanwhile, driving ability is also lessened among this age group. Fortunately, widespread telehealth expansion consequent to the Covid-19 pandemic has made it possible for more seniors to keep their scheduled medical appointments than ever before. While the overall benefits of using telehealth became obvious during the Covid-19 pandemic, the continued increase in telehealth use among seniors is enabling far better self-management of their chronic health conditions. From high blood pressure to diabetes, telehealth is helping more senior-aged patients to prevent worsening of their disorders through obtaining ongoing follow-up care. The following describes three of the vital roles of telehealth in senior care. 

Telehealth for health prevention education

More than 50% of adults aged 65 and older are living with prediabetes, and 25% have full-blown Type-2 diabetes. For those diagnosed with prediabetes, changing daily eating habits right away may prevent the progression to Type-2 diabetes. Yet, eating a diet high in carbohydrates and/or sugar may be a lifelong habit that feels impossible to change. Furthermore, some people do not understand how changing daily eating habits can prevent Type-2 diabetes.  

After prediabetes is diagnosed by a doctor, it is important to learn how to control blood sugar through daily dietary intake. While an appointment with a nutritionist or diabetes educator may be scheduled by the doctor that diagnosed the prediabetes, many seniors do not attend such appointments due to lack of transportation. However, being offered the option to attend these appointments “virtually” via telehealth can enable the person with prediabetes to change daily eating habits to avoid needing diabetes medication. 

It is important to realize that a lack of understanding regarding how to prevent a particular chronic disorder is often the reason an older-aged person develops that disorder. For example, lack of a regular exercise routine increases the risk for heart disease. Notably, receiving health education by a nurse or doctor that is targeted toward increasing daily exercise in seniors can lead to better heart rate function. By undertaking a daily exercise routine, premature heart disease progression can be delayed in seniors experiencing the early symptoms of heart disease. Therefore, telehealth for health prevention education can enable seniors to prevent avoidable disabilities and premature death. 

Managing medication refills through senior telehealth use 

Skipped doses of medications account for 125,000 deaths annually, and 10-25% of hospital admissions. A common reason that seniors may skip prescribed doses is that they were not able to travel to pick up the next monthly supply of the medication from their pharmacy. Another is that those seniors needed to acquire a new refill prescription from the doctor in order for the pharmacy to continue providing that medication. By using telehealth, a senior may be able to quickly talk to their doctor and/or pharmacist to avoid running out of the medication. While many pharmacies can now deliver a patient’s medication to the home address, a current prescription refill request from a doctor still needs to exist at that pharmacy for it to be filled. Thus, telehealth can enable a rapid resolution of the problem that prevented the senior from having enough medication “on hand” not to skip a dose. 

Recognizing when an “in-person” healthcare visit is necessary or not 

Not every senior who is experiencing a symptom of a health disorder needs to have an “in-person” medical appointment to obtain treatment. Falls are the leading cause of injury in seniors, and one in every four seniors report a fall each year (per the Centers for Disease Control). While a fall can result in a broken bone, most falls just result in a sprained ankle or wrist. Talking to a healthcare provider via telehealth can enable the injured senior to care for the sprain at home in many cases.  

This self-care may involve applying an ice pack, elevating the affected limb, and/or bandaging the joint in a specific way to prevent moving it. By having a healthcare provider instruct the senior-aged patient in how to self-treat a minor sprain via a telehealth visit, a trip to the doctor’s office (that could potentially further injure the joint) may be avoided. Meanwhile, following the healthcare provider’s self-care instructions may also promote faster healing of that sprain.  

Senior-aged adults living with Type-2 diabetes and taking diabetes medication can sometimes have a sudden drop in blood glucose level. Most often, this is because a meal was skipped or the diabetic person engaged in unusually vigorous exercise. Through talking to a healthcare provider quickly via telehealth, the senior-aged person can find out how whether drinking some orange juice may be enough to reverse the low blood glucose (hypoglycemia) or whether injectable glucagon is necessary. Moreover, that telehealth visit can enable the diabetic senior to know whether to immediately visit a hospital Emergency Room for treatment. 

The Ōmcare Home Health Hub® offers videoconferencing capabilities with loved ones and professional caregivers currently and will offer full telehealth abilities in the future. This allows the Hub to not provide medication reminders and dispensing of pre-packaged medications, but also will enable you to connect with a provider as well. Creating an all-in-one system makes using technology that much simpler and thus more effective.