According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 50 million people worldwide live with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementias. As the baby boomer generation grows older, the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease will increase. Not only does this affect the person with the disease, but also the family, caregivers, and the healthcare system altogether. Telehealth services have paved the way for increased healthcare accessibility and have modified the standard of care for patients living with the disease.
Alzheimer’s is a fatal disease that slowly destroys nerve cells and the tissue in the brain. Because of this irreversible damage, a person’s ability to plan, recall, recognize family and friends, and complete day-to-day tasks independently become increasingly difficult. While the cause of the disease is unknown, there are known factors that can increase the risk of the disease, such as age and genetics. For patients living with dementia as well as their caregivers, it can be difficult emotionally and physically while navigate and managing the disease. According to helpguide.org, many caregivers report feeling high levels of stress, anxiety, and depression.
What are some techniques to address the challenges that dementia patients, caregivers, and healthcare providers face when navigating the management of the disease? The answer lies within telehealth, which challenges the conventional model of care. In a traditional setting, there is a focus of care between the patient and clinical specialists. Since this model requires traveling to the provider’s office, it can introduce potential challenges and extra stress added for the caregiver. According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, approximately 78% of family caregivers either provide or arrange transportation for their loved ones but may not always be available to transport them to the pharmacy or doctor’s office when they need, or want, to go. In such situations, telehealth applications are a great way to avoid the stress of arranging transportation for every visit to the doctor’s office or pharmacy. Illuminate Health addresses this obstacle. Our mobile clinical service allows patients and family caregivers to chat directly with a pharmacist about disease states, medication concerns, and medication regimens all from the comfort of their own homes.
Illuminate Health addresses challenges beyond transportation. Caregivers of early onset dementia patients face the stress of their loved ones simply forgetting to take their medicine, causing them to skip a dose, as well as risking an overdose when accidentally taking too much of their medication. With the intervention of a clinical service like Illuminate Health, this can put the caregiver’s mind at ease knowing their loved one is being reminded to take their medication along with a visual description of the medicine that needs to be taken. The provided additional support and increased medication adherence that telehealth services can provide like Illuminate Health will ultimately decrease the negative outcomes that are associated with poor medication adherence. Overall, telehealth improves the standards and safety measures set in place for Alzheimer’s patients and other dementia patients.
Inconsistency in medication adherence in dementia patients is something I have personally witnessed. Within the past year, I have seen two of my family members suffer from early onset dementia. One of the first issues each of them faced was remembering and managing their medications. My grandmother had always used a weekly pill organizer to help organize her medication regimen. However, even in the early stages of dementia, the good ole pill organizer created more harm than good. When my father would come to check on her in the middle of the week, he noticed the spots in the pill organizer that should have been empty remained full. She had also begun questioning the dose and frequency of her routine medications that she had been taking for 30+ years, accusing my father of putting the wrong dose into her pill organizer.
My grandmother’s feelings of doubt, confusion, and uncertainty about her medications led to many phone calls and trips to her local pharmacy. Within a month, it was safe to say she was a frequent visitor and was on a first-name basis with the entire pharmacy staff. My grandmother found comfort in talking with her pharmacist, and her mind was put at ease when the pharmacy staff addressed her questions. I share this story because, for dementia patients like my grandmother, telehealth services would not only prevent extra trips to the pharmacy but could also address issues at home before a crisis happens. A mobile service that provides the patient with a schedule of their medications as well as a list of the medications they have taken for the day decreases the risk of poor medication adherence. This, in turn, can lessen the burden and stress on the caregiver and improve the overall quality of life for people with dementia.
Telehealth is changing the quality and accessibility for dementia patients across the United States by challenging the model of traditional care. Illuminate Health strives to provide patients with the tools needed to increase medication adherence, minimize hospitalizations, and improve the overall quality of life for the patient regardless of the disease state. We understand the struggles and challenges patients and caregivers face through disease management and have developed a solution to address these barriers. This month, let’s recognize the millions of people worldwide living with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia and give thanks to the caregivers that give their endless support to those battling the disease.
About the author:
Jennah Worthington is a Brand Ambassador Intern for illuminate.health and is a rising senior studying Healthcare & Business at Butler University. She has a passion for the pharmaceutical industry and gaining a deeper understanding of the roles of health providers, insurers, and administrators. She strives to help find ways to increase accessibility in various areas of healthcare. Jennah resides in Indianapolis and enjoys going on walks with her Dalmatian.