Telehealth – A Dementia Care Solution?

November 23, 2015 By Julie Potyraj – Guest Blogger

Kudos to Linda Kaufman, RN, for a thought-provoking article in Executive Insight about how telehealth can improve care and lower costs for patients with dementia.

Kaufman cites some shocking numbers from the Alzheimer’s Association: the cost of care for Alzheimer’s patients this year is expected to top $226 billion – and that number could go even higher when you include those who suffer from Alzheimer’s plus chronic conditions like diabetes.

In Kaufman’s view, telehealth can play a pivotal role in lowering the staggering cost of care for dementia patients by reducing unnecessary hospital visits and improving communication between skilled nursing facilities and home health providers.

She even outlines how a fledgling telehealth program might be structured. Registered nurses could be available 24/7 for calls and video chats with family members providing dementia care. The nurse would use a series of algorithms and protocols to make recommendations to the caregiver. This early intervention could go a long way toward eliminating unnecessary ambulance transport and ED visits. It can also provide ongoing emotional support for stressed-out caregivers.

The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that there will be more than seven million Medicare-age dementia patients by 2025. Meanwhile, there are only about 1.6 million nursing home beds in the U.S., and Baby Boomers are retiring at the rate of 10,000 per day. It soon may be necessary to provide home-based care for huge numbers of dementia patients – and telehealth may be the only viable solution.