The industry-wide shift to video appointments with medical providers has streamlined and improved many aspects of healthcare. However, telehealth can present challenges for family caregivers, especially those caring for a loved one with a visual impairment.
Telehealth can often work very effectively with eye doctors. Not only can vision tests be conducted via telemedicine, but conditions like dry eye disease and conjunctivitis can be treated without an in-person visit. Even more serious conditions such as diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration can be monitored remotely. This is a tremendous benefit, particularly for those who live in rural areas.
But new technology always comes with some growing pains. While video appointments are convenient and minimize chances of COVID exposure, there can be certain drawbacks for family caregivers.
It has always been important to include family caregivers in visits to the eye doctor. When their loved one has low vision, the family caregiver may be the person responsible for assisting with activities of daily living, such as dressing and bathing. Depending on the severity of vision loss, transportation and shopping may all be coordinated through the family caregiver. Caregivers are important observers of symptoms or side effects that their loved one is experiencing and they are critical to seeing that their loved keeps up with their medications and practices appropriate eye care.
Family caregivers, therefore, need to be able to engage in a virtual visit the same way they would if they were in an exam room with their loved one. That requires caregivers to ensure that they are properly set up with technology and are comfortable with the system that the doctor will use.
All too often, unfortunately, policies won’t allow the family caregiver to be in a separate location from their loved one and still participate in the telehealth appointment. They need to be physically sitting in the same room with their loved one during the tele-visit. This is one thing that needs to change. Health insurance, including Medicare and Medicaid, needs to allow family caregivers to connect to virtual visits from a third location if necessary.
These telehealth challenges to family caregivers are piled on top of the care they are already struggling to provide for their loved one. Telehealth is here to stay. Even after the coronavirus is behind us, telehealth could very well be the new reality for patients and family caregivers so let’s make sure we get it right.
For more info and support contact Caregiver Help Desk for free by dialing 855-227-3640 or by visiting Caregiver Action.org. Caregiving Experts are available Monday through Friday 8:00 AM – 7:00 PM ET.