Senior-aged adults often rely on adult children and other family members for home-based assistance. This can range from housecleaning to helping with bathing and dressing. There are at least 44 million “friends and family” unpaid caregivers in the US, and these caregivers are critical to the survival of homebound seniors. If you are a family member or friend performing a caregiving role to an elderly person, taking time away from that role to lower your caregiving stress can be a major challenge. Telehealth utilization can reduce that stress, as the need to drive your elderly loved one to frequent healthcare or allied therapy appointments can be eliminated. Moreover, it can also enable the senior-aged person to meet with a doctor or allied therapist (such as a physical therapist) to acquire health-related information without the need for an “in-person” appointment. 

Below are three tips for caregivers to promote telehealth utilization by senior-aged loved ones: 

Tip #1: Make sure the room is as quiet as possible during a telehealth session 

One in every three people aged 65-74 has hearing loss. For those aged 75 and older, most have noticeable hearing loss. For seniors with age-related hearing loss, high and low-pitched voices can be the most difficult to hear clearly. Since the majority of hearing aids “work” by amplifying all nearby sounds, a loud television in the room during a telehealth session may prevent a hearing-impaired senior from understanding a doctor’s answers to questions.  Therefore, it is vital to ensure that the room where the senior-aged person is located is as quiet as possible during the telehealth session. In this way, it is more likely that your senior-aged loved one will be able to get medical questions answered and feel comfortable using telehealth to interact with healthcare providers. 

Tip #2: Have adequate lighting in the room where the telehealth visit will occur 

Healthcare providers typically need to be able to see a patient in order to assess that person’s overall state of health. This is especially the case for senior-aged patients living with a chronic disorder, as worsening health can often be visible by viewing the face. For example, an unusual yellowish skin tone or jaundice in a person is common in those experiencing liver damage. If that jaundice has worsened – which happens in worsening liver damage – a person’s doctor may notice this during a telehealth visit, and determine an emergency “in-person” appointment is needed.  

Furthermore, good lighting during a telehealth session can prevent a senior-aged person from developing eyestrain, which can result in your loved one stopping a telehealth session prematurely before getting the needed medical information. 

Tip #3: Check the technology to ensure it works before the telehealth visit begins 

It can be frustrating to discover that a computer’s webcam does not work during a telehealth visit with a healthcare provider. Likewise, internet connections can sometimes become unstable due to inclement weather events such as thunderstorms. According to AARP, two in five adults over age 65 feel that technological devices were not designed with them in mind.  

Problematically, when a senior-aged person is unable to keep a telehealth visit because of a technology problem, that person is far more likely to not want to use telehealth again. Then, this unfortunate decision can result in your return to driving or escorting your senior-aged loved one to numerous healthcare providers’ offices. In turn, the negative result can be deciding not to keep those needed medical appointments. 

Try teaching your loved ones or doing a practice call ahead of time.  

These are just three tips to enhancing how a senior can use telehealth for better health and allow caregivers more peace of mind and time away. What else would you add to the list?