It is your haven and your sanctuary. Perhaps it’s the place where you spent decades raising your family, or it’s that bit of the American dream you acquired later in life. No matter whether you’ve lived there for one year or thirty, it’s truly where your heart is.
It’s your home, and you have no intention of allowing age or illness to take you away from it. Thankfully, today’s technologies are making it more possible than ever before for seniors to live safely and independently in their own homes. However, it’s not always easy to find the right technologies suited for the unique needs of seniors who wish to age-in-place.
This article discusses the remarkable opportunities and particular challenges of harnessing the power of telehealth to enable seniors to remain in their own homes.
Telehealth and aging-in-place
The advent of telemedicine has been one of the most important factors in helping seniors, even those with significant health conditions, live independently in their own homes. Telemedicine allows seniors to connect with their care providers anytime, anywhere.
And, for many seniors, these technologies are often far more accessible than one might think. In fact, studies show that seniors are not nearly as averse to technology as modern stereotypes suggest. Nearly 80 percent of seniors own a cell phone and at least 70 percent routinely seek out health information online.
In other words, the majority of seniors in the United States already have access to and are familiar with today’s digital technologies. Now, the key is to invoke the power of telemedicine to help seniors independently live out their lives at home.
This can not only improve patients’ access to their healthcare team, but it will also eliminate the need for seniors to travel to most medical appointments. For frail patients or those without access to transportation, being able to virtually “meet” face-to-face with their doctors from their own homes is not only much more convenient, it’s also a far safer option.
Best of all, remote health monitoring devices, including wearable mHealth technologies, can stream essential health data to the patients’ healthcare team in real-time. These technologies allow healthcare providers to detect symptoms early, even before they are recognized by the patient. In addition, they can alert the healthcare team and family caregivers to sudden changes in the patient’s vital signs which may indicate a health emergency, ensuring that help can be dispatched immediately.
Telemedicine is also a powerful tool for preventative care. For example, seniors can connect multiple times a week, if needed, with nurse practitioners and health educators to develop customized disease prevention strategies and to discuss evolving needs and challenges. Such proactive measures often make all the difference for those who want to remain in their own homes for as long as possible.
As immense as the benefits of today’s telehealth technologies are, however, the fact remains that technology is not always senior-friendly. The global population is rapidly aging, and yet many tech designers have failed to provide sufficient accessibility options for seniors with hearing, vision, or mobility challenges.
One of the principal reasons for this troubling oversight is simply that tech is, far too often, a young person’s game. Ageism in the workplace contaminates virtually every industry, but it’s especially pervasive in the tech field. When you don’t have a workforce to represent the aging population, you can’t really understand the particular needs of that population.
Telehealth technologies also have other Achilles’ heels, the threat of security breaches being a large one. By definition, telemedicine is designed to collect, send, and store the patients’ most sensitive and private information.
From monitoring the patients’ home and detecting indications of a fall or other health emergencies to acquiring and remotely transmitting patients’ health data, one breach by one savvy hacker can disrupt or even destroy a single patient’s life. It is little wonder why some seniors still have serious reservations about filling their homes and lives with telehealth technology.
The proliferation of telehealth technologies in recent years has changed the lives of patients regardless of age, but it is probably seniors who are reaping the greatest reward. Because of today’s wearable health devices and remote care apps, many seniors are now able to remain in their homes.