Turning our attention away from the all-intrusive pandemic (at least from the primary topics surrounding COVID-19), it’s good to take a minute from the turmoil of the virus to engage with something positive.
The continual waves of uncertainty that drive COVID-19 may leave something positive in the disease’s painful wake, particularly for people with Alzheimer’s or other debilitating diseases.
Technology gives healthcare providers the ability to treat patients at home. Telehealth has taken center stage as doctor’s offices are closed up tight and hospital emergency rooms fill with sick COVID-19 patients. At the same time, people with aches, pains, and common illnesses that aren’t life-threatening are resigned to wait, unable to see their doctors in person. A simple solution is now in play.
Doctors and nurse practitioners are addressing patients digitally, diagnosing symptoms and creating treatment plans for the person on the other side of a computer screen. Yes, telemedicine existed before the pandemic, but it wasn’t widespread. Looking back, I wish that telehealth had been an option for my mother.
It was fine that it wasn’t available in the early days of her dementia, but as the disease progressed, the choice would have been very helpful.
The challenge of visits to the doctor
The process of getting to the doctor’s office is challenging for Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers. It was for us. My sister, a registered nurse, took on the challenge, taking Mom to most of her doctors’ appointments. However, in the latter years of Alzheimer’s disease, it often took both of us to meet the demand. Just getting in and out of the car was an ordeal. Sitting for too long in the waiting room, explaining what would come next, seeing the doctor, and then getting back home were all difficult. Soon it became impossible.
Fewer resources in the last days
We discovered that there were many resources available to Mom in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. However, at the end of her life, fewer were offered, especially with her regular physician. My mother enjoyed good health, even with Alzheimer’s, but during the last two weeks of life, she began to fail.
We entered her into hospice thinking that the doctor would address the uncomfortable conditions accompanying Mom in her last days. He couldn’t. He was only allowed to address the issue related to her admittance, which was Alzheimer’s disease.
We needed answers, but Mom couldn’t physically make the trip to the doctor’s office, and her primary care physician, like most, didn’t make house calls. Telemedicine would have been a godsend, but just a few short years ago, it wasn’t available. With the help of hospice, and with my sister’s expertise as a registered nurse, we made Mom as comfortable as possible. The medical issues that plagued her last days went unanswered. She went home a few days later.
If one good thing emerges out of the COVID-19 pandemic, I hope that it’s the widespread use of telemedicine. People with life-altering diseases need it.
Note: Alzheimer’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Alzheimer’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Alzheimer’s disease.
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