Communicating With An Elderly Loved One? Go Digital.

Does your elderly loved one live alone? If so, you probably worry. It’s not that your family member is incapable. It’s just that, as we age, certain things become more challenging. Of course, there are the activities of daily living, such as eating and bathing. But there’s another task that can become trickier as we age: socializing.

If you’re concerned about the amount of time an older family member is spending alone, you can help by reaching out. It’s probably not possible for you to be present around the clock—and to be fair, your elderly loved one may not want constant company. But checking in regularly—even if it’s not in person—can show that you care.

There was a time when phone calls were the only option. Fortunately, things have changed. For families, digital technology makes keeping in touch easier and more rewarding than ever before.

In this post, we’ll tell you why it might be time to look for the right digital technology to connect with your loved one.

Face-to-face engagement for better health

From mobility issues to limited social opportunities, there are many reasons why engaging with the community can become more difficult as we age. The result is an increased risk for social isolation—especially among those who live alone.

Unfortunately, the psychological and physical consequences can be dire. The Canadian government links social isolation among seniors with everything from unhealthy drinking to an increased risk of falls and hospitalization.

And the resulting problems aren’t always just psychological. Recent studies suggest that social isolation presents major physical health risks and lead to premature death. Shockingly, the condition can actually be as hazardous as smoking.

It probably isn’t possible to be with your elderly loved one all the time. That said, social contact—especially with family—can mean a lot. It can also prevent the many negative consequences of living without enough support.

For many families, the best way to provide meaningful contact is through communication technology. Do you live at a distance from your elderly loved one? Perhaps you have pressing work or family commitments that make it difficult to visit as often as you’d like. Maybe you’d like to supplement your regular visits.

Phone calls don’t provide the same level of support as in-person visits. But the right videoconferencing technology can help by providing a face-to-face connection—from anywhere, at anytime. Imagine the comfort your loved one could receive from the reassuring smile of someone who cares about them.

If you want to provide this type of aid, look for a mobile app with real-time videoconferencing capabilities. Of course, using mobile devices to communicate is second nature for many of us. But for many older adults, this simply isn’t the case. In these situations, can a mobile videoconferencing app still help?

Communication technology: intuitive and easy to use?

Today, older adults are more digitally connected than ever before. The use of smartphones, tablets, and social media are on the rise in this demographic, disproving the stereotype that seniors are stuck in the past.

That said, technology adoption rates are still lower among those over 65 than they are in the general population. There are a whole range of reasons for this. Mobility challenges and cognitive issues make it difficult for many seniors to engage.

Of course, it’s also true that some older adults just aren’t tech-savvy—or interested in becoming so. At Aetonix, we don’t believe that these obstacles should get in the way of communication. Even if your elderly loved one has had difficulty using technology in the past, chances are good that there’s a digital platform he can use and enjoy.

Not all communication technology is created equal—especially when it comes to ease of use. We’ve already discussed the potential benefits of videoconferencing on the wellbeing of those with limited social contact. But even among videoconferencing apps, major differences exist.

If you believe your loved one would find most digital technology challenging, set her up for success by choosing the right solution. Touchscreen tablets are intuitive, so they’re a great choice.

An app designed for users of all abilities and skill levels will provide clear visuals. For your elderly loved one, calling you or another family member should be as easy as tapping a picture on a tablet screen.

Of course, mobility difficulties can sometimes get in the way of receiving calls. A solution that works both as a communication platform and an emergency alert system is good for those who may have difficulty moving around to find a tablet. A user should have the option of making or answering a call by pushing a button on a wearable device—such as a lightweight bracelet.

Another consideration is the login process. Does logging in require complex passwords? Aiming for simplicity is almost always best.

Extending the circle of care

Of course, it’s not just about family. Communication technology makes all kinds of connections possible. For older adults with health issues, this could include contact with health care practitioners, professional caregivers, and community support workers.

Home care is playing an increasingly significant role in the Ontario health care system. As a result, communication across circles of care is critical. If you’re not familiar with the term, a circle of care is a group of people who have permission to view a patient’s health information. Often, these individuals are in a position to provide unique support for the patient in question.

If you’re part of your elderly loved one’s circle of care, having up-to-date access to care plan information can help you improve the coordination of her care. Ideally, you should be able to both see and share updates. When you know what’s happening, you can offer encouragement in order to improve wellbeing and promote positive lifestyle changes. A better understanding of your loved one’s overall condition will also aid you in figuring out how best to be there for your loved one.

With a high-quality communication app, nurses, personal support workers (PSWs), and other relevant health care professionals can engage in instantaneous face-to-face communication with patients. As a family member, you can take comfort in knowing that the right people are checking in with your loved one.

A solution that’s designed for everyone involved in your elderly loved one’s care will enable her to live a healthier, more independent life. For this reason, every patient—especially those who live at home—should have a supportive circle of care.

Make it easy for members of your relative’s circle to connect with you, your loved one, and each other. Choose a communication app that makes communication easy—not just between you to your loved one, but across your loved one’s entire circle of care.

Feature image courtesy of x1klima

 

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COPD Education – Onboarding

Objective

To complete a thorough needs assessment / initial evaluation for a COPD patient of an outpatient clinic

Actors
Patient, Educator (Nurse, RT, the Physician could also be the educator)

Timelines
One 60-90 min session with the Educator

Description
  • This protocol should be established for all COPD patients from a given clinic, independently of whether they are new patients or they are known to the clinic. This protocol is the basis to engage the patient into other protocols such as education, exacerbation follow-up, etc.
  • We need to identify patient goals/concerns to guide the interventions
  • A thorough evaluation is carried on, with the objective of understanding where the patient is on their disease journey and follow-up treatable traits: dyspnea, exacerbation or dyspnea and exacerbation.
  • It includes the use of objective questionnaires such as the mMRC, CAT, HADS, Frailty Scale, etc.
  • Identify if the patient needs to be referred to other resources (e.g. Physiotherapist, social worker, occupational therapist)
  • Once Onboarding is completed, the patient continues to the COPD Education workflow
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COPD Education – Continuous Maintenance

Objective 

To cover in depth all the necessary elements of self-management education as per the LWWCOPD, with priorities based on patient goals and identified treatable traits

Actors
Patient, Educator (Nurse, RT or Physician)

Timelines
A number of “Core” educational modules have been identified which cover the basic COPD education from the LWWCOPD program. Additionally, optional modules can be used to respond to patient needs. The timeline (frequency, number of modules to be covered at a given education session) is fully customizable, although we recommend to have education sessions every 2-weeks during the “active” phase of education. Once this is completed, the patient continues to the Maintenance Mode (see below).

Description
  • Launched at the onboarding protocol
  • Provide basic overview of COPD self-management based on LWWCOPD (medication adherence, inhaler techniques, PLB technique & energy conservation) up to the development of an Action plan for early exacerbation recognition and management.
  • Prioritize self-learning by the patient (e.g. watching videos, reading educational materials, completing homework) in addition to live sessions with the Educator. Educational materials are sent to the patient directly via the platform, and become the patient’s own library. The Educator can customize which “homework” the patient receives.
  • Educators have access to “User guides” to standardise their educational intervention. These user guides include: objectives, interventions, suggested questions, evaluation of self-efficacy, and learning contracts for each module.
  • Once the core education is completed, the patient can continue to the Respiratory Status Follow-up Workflow (run in parallel)

The Maintenance Mode
  • As soon as the maintenance mode is engaged, the frequency of visits Educator/Patient is reduced to once every 6 months.
  • During the Maintenance Mode sessions, the educator has access to all the education modules and can choose any piece of content that needs to covered with the patient. 
  • A streamlined evaluation (similar to the initial eval.) is done during each “maintenance” visit to identify any substantial changes on the patient’s needs that will require some adjustment. The patient could come back to an “active” education mode (more frequent education sessions, e.g. every 2 weeks).
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COPD Respiratory Status Follow-up

Objective

Monitoring of stable patients from a clinic in order to identify early any aggravation of symptoms (exacerbation) and implement an action plan

Actors
Patient, Educator (Nurse, RT or Physician)

Timelines
Scheduled regular automated follow-up to the patient symptoms. Intensity/Frequency can be adjusted by the Educator depending on patient needs (e.g. daily, every week, etc.). Ongoing through the year.

Description
  • Launch: Patients who have completed the Core Educational including setting-up an action plan.
  • Regular automated questions allow to identify any change in patient’s symptoms and severity.
  • If an exacerbation is detected the patient gets a reminder to engage their self-management strategies while waiting for the Educator to call back.
  • An alarm is generated for the Educator, so they immediately call back the patient. At this call they will evaluate any further intervention required and schedule additional follow-up.
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