The COVID-19 pandemic is moving telehealth or telemedicine (health care via phone, email, video or another technology) into the mainstream, thus ensuring access to medical care yet still protecting patients as well as health care workers. From routine checkups to visits with specialists, telehealth carries great potential for seniors who seek to age in place in their own home, maintain their independence and feel peace of mind.
Seniors who are sheltering at home during COVID can enjoy many advantages from this mobile medical technology. For one, telehealth is considered a safe and easy way to see your doctor from the safety and comfort of your own home. In fact, more advanced telehealth technology offers options such as a face-to-face chat through a video web portal or the tracking of vital signs via remote monitoring devices. The simple act of maintaining human connection by hearing and/or seeing a physician or a care team member will go a long way in supporting seniors’ mental health. There are some financial payoffs as well, like not having to spend for parking or a ride service.
As the pandemic continues, telehealth may provide extra layers of precaution and safety for seniors, a population that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified as being at higher risk for severe illness. If you or a loved one is living with chronic health condition, it’s recommended that you curtail the time you spend in public (like the grocery store or pharmacy) and avoid visiting places that could the chances of coming into contact with an infected person. First thing’s first: Ask your doctor whether telehealth is an appropriate tool for your particular situation.
Knowing how to prepare for a virtual visit to the doctor’s office will help you or your senior loved one glean the most benefits from telehealth. We’ve gathered the following six tips for achieving the best success for a remote technology appointment and optimize your experience:
Get your devices ready before the appointment
There’s no getting around it—telehealth requires technology. Check to see that your device—be it cell phone, desktop computer or tablet—is fully charged and that you have a reliable internet connection. The virtual visit may be held using a software program or app provided by your doctor’s office. This will need to be downloaded and your account set up. Most likely, the doctor’s office will provide all the necessary instructions beforehand. After setting up, test your device, the software and your headset if you’ll be using one. If you’ll be participating in a video chat, make sure there is good lighting so that your care provider can see you clearly. At the beginning of the meeting ask, “How should I reach you if the technology isn’t working for us?” and write down your health provider’s instructions.
Find a quiet spot for your virtual visit
Turn off the TV, radio and Alexa or Google Home so that your virtual visit to the doctor’s office isn’t interrupted by background noise or distractions. Put the dog, cat, bird, or grandkids in another room. Use headphones or earbuds if you use them regularly and are comfortable doing so and this will help reduce outside noise during your visit.
Go over your pre-existing conditions
Likely your medical provider will bring these up but it’s still a good idea to have a list of your conditions and how long they’ve been present, especially when seeing a new care professional. Be prepared to give accurate and comprehensive answers when asked if anything has changed since your last visit or if you’re having any side effects from prescribed medications or supplements you’re taking. Doing so will help your care provider properly evaluate your current health status.
Have your questions written down and medication in front of you
It’s easy to forget questions or get sidetracked, so a list of written questions will help you address all your concerns with your health professional. Don’t forget to have a notepad handy so that you can jot down answers and make notes on the information provided, along with instructions on how you should proceed going forward. In addition, you want to have a list of your prescriptions, especially those that require a refill. Having your medication bottles in front of you, including over-the-counter medicines or vitamins will make it easier to ask questions about any concerns.
If you normally have someone with you to support you during an in-person appointment, ask that person to attend your virtual visit. If you or a loved one are receiving in-home caregiver assistance from Amada Senior Care or another agency, consider asking for help. You are invited to call your Amada senior advisor and ask about how virtual health assessments are conducted or request any specific assistance. If you would like to be put in contact with an Amada office near you, call 877-442-6232.
Have any medical devices and “your numbers” close at hand
If you know how and have the devices to do so (thermometer, blood pressure cuff, etc.), take your vital signs—heart rate, blood pressure and weight (or blood sugar if you’re a diabetic)—the morning of your appointment and have those numbers ready to report. Or your health provider may ask you to take a reading while you’re talking. If you keep a log of your vitals or had recent lab tests, make sure to get those numbers or results to the provider’s office before the appointment.
Make sure you know what to do next for an in-person follow-up appointment
At the end of your virtual visit, make sure you go over you care plan with your health provider and check that you have all the information, lab tests and medication refills that you need. Ask if your provider has a system for sending a secure email to you that summarizes the evaluation and provides further instructions for managing your health. If for some reason your care professional requires a follow-up, in-person appointment, be mindful to write down and follow instructions on how to do so safely while minimizing risk of COVID exposure. Bring the notes you took during the virtual visit to your in-person appointment.
The COVID-19 situation will continue to change, but what remains steady is Amada Senior Care’s commitment to our communities. If you are having difficulty with heightened anxiety or uncertain about what assistance a loved one might require, please know we’re here for you 24/7 to help.
Feel free to call us at 877-442-6232 or you can send us an email at info@AmadaSeniorCare.com. It may feel like life is in a holding pattern, but as a caring community we will get through this together.
“6 Tips for Seniors on How to Prepare for a Telehealth Visit” was written by Michelle Flores, Amada Blog contributor.