The United States of America consists of over 5.8 million Alzheimer’s patients and people with different types of dementia, and this statistic is rapidly amplifying. As the number Alzheimer patients rises, the lives of the families, caregivers, and healthcare providers are affected too. However, through telehealth platforms and Alzheimer’s technology, the standard of healthcare and quality of life has immense capacity to enhance.
The conventional norm of care for patients with Alzheimer’s disease depends on a foundational relationship between the patient and caregiver with long-term locational support. For patients to be taken to the healthcare center is exceedingly arduous, especially in rural areas where medical centers are in distant locations. Telehealth solves these logistical issues, as the healthcare practitioner can remotely see patients in early phases of Alzheimer’s. These services ensure constant remote care in the comfort of the patient’s home and prevents any adverse patient behavior or response that could be aggravated due to the shift in surroundings. However, before understanding treatment and care for Alzheimer’s disease, we must decode the fundamental symptoms, and impact of dementia.
What is dementia?
Dementia is an illness, mostly of a permanent and continuous nature, where individuals undergo damaged cognitive function beyond the general expectation in older adults. This illness annually affects more than 50 million people worldwide and erodes the basic functioning of retention, interpretation, communication, and decision-making. Dementia is one of the primary causes of disability and reliance on others in older adults, creating an overpowering burden on families and primary caregivers.
Common symptoms of dementia include loss of memory, loss of understanding of time, forgetting the names of relatives and holidays, loss of navigation in familiar places, behavioral changes, confusion and communication issues, failure to manage bodily care, and inactivity. Alzheimer’s disease is the most widespread and severe type of dementia, and other major forms include vascular dementia and dementia with Lewy bodies. Countless recent treatments are under exploration and scrutiny in several stages of clinical trials. Even though, there is no cure for dementia, treatments and constant support can upgrade the lives of patients with dementia, their caregivers, and families.
Dementia has substantial social and financial costs through medical and public care expenses, including the physical, economic, and emotional pressure and responsibility the family and caregivers carry in endeavoring to support their patients. Due to these very reasons, remote care is transforming into a sustainable option.
Malnutrition in patients with dementia
As per the Nursing Standard of the Royal College of Nursing, they found that as dementia worsens for patients, they may encounter additional hardships in eating and drinking carefully, and readmissions in healthcare centers can increase exacerbation rates of dementia and aggravate malnutrition in patients. For good nutritional care, artificial nutrition should be employed to ensure safer eating and drinking.
As per the Europe PMC, a systematic review was conducted on the effectiveness of Mealtime Interventions for Malnutrition for people with Dementia. The study introduced educational platforms, locational alterations, oral complements, and eco-emotional interventions. It was reported that there was a notable development in nutritional outcomes, however, in remote care; there was mediocre proof to demonstrate the effectiveness of oral support, educational programs, and locational changes.
According to Hiller, J. (2020). The research was executed on the effect of Singing Engagement on food consumption of people with Alzheimer’s disease and similar types of Dementia. The results highlighted that during music therapy, there was an improvement in serotonin levels and an increased and enhanced engagement on food consumption and a decrease in nutritional impediments. This finding allows primary caregivers and families to alter the nutritional plans for patients with dementia accordingly.
Pain management of patients with dementia
As per the National Library of Medicine, research was piloted on how pain is controlled and evaluated in people with dementia. For people with dementia, pain is a significantly growing problem that strips them away of their autonomy, cognitive and physical functioning, and good quality life.
Pain assessment in dementia-afflicted patients should commence with self-reports of semi-structured questionnaires, audio recordings incorporated with an examination of nonverbal pain behaviors, and continuous observations in remote settings. These treatments must be customized to each patient, especially for older adults as each patient feels and fights their pain differently.
The pain medications should be prudently prescribed to patients and should be incorporated with non-pharmacological therapy. Medical practitioners must be educated and cognizant about strategies for pain treatment, and methods to prescribe and harness both pharmacological and natural techniques to alleviate pain. This enables clinicians to manage pain in people with dementia and enhances their quality of life.
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Numerous difficulties exist in the employment of telehealth platforms in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Concerns have been raised about the accuracy of diagnostic tests in teleconferences, legislation drawbacks, insurance, and the obstacles for the elderly population to access and comprehend technology.
Many older adults favor physical checkups compared to virtual meetings, even though telemedicine produces outcomes that are more accurate. Technical hurdles prevent patients from understanding digitized platforms due to the lack of experience with tablet-based technology and audio and video conferences.
The National Library of Medicine documented that provision of care services and assistance for people with dementia in rural and remote areas is particularly challenging. Medical practitioners are more likely to record accessible assistance services for patients and families as acceptable compared to primary care providers. Informal caretaker’s requirements were more allied with non-physician healthcare providers concerning the necessity for better access to additional medical care specialists and services.
Alzheimer’s technology – A promising future
Telehealth services foster aging in place by empowering patient treatment and observation from home for patients with dementia. Through medication memos, wandering-prevention tracing, and caregiver awareness support, the safety of patients has improved. These tracking programs curtail the risk of falls and wandering by 50 percent and constant remote observation has correlated with an increase in medication and treatment adherence in people with dementia.
With the support of Alzheimer’s technology, medication administration prompting instruments, mobile phones, virtual discussion groups, monitoring networks, and action-triggered lighting has also assisted dementia-afflicted patients in gradual care.
There must also be international legislation for dementia-afflicted patients to guarantee exceptional quality of care for people with dementia and their primary carers, with logistical and economic frameworks to support them and society.
[box] Kelton High is a Social Sciences undergraduate who majored in International Relations, with a budding interest in qualitative research. He has previously worked at Transparency International.