Telemedicine Fills Gap for Residents

Lori Graman (right) and her mother, Norma. Photo courtesy of United Church Homes.

Telemedicine has become an important tool for United Church Homes’ Four Winds Community in Jackson, Ohio. The rural setting provides a unique opportunity for the remote delivery of healthcare services and clinical information using telecommunications technology.

Telemedicine uses internet, wireless, satellite and telephone technology to bring the best care services to older adults in the Jackson area. It is a rapidly growing component of healthcare in the United States, according to the American Telemedicine Association. There are 200 telemedicine networks with 3,500 service sites in the country. Nearly 1 million Americans are using remote cardiac monitors and in 2011, the Veterans Health Administration delivered over 300,000 remote consultations using telemedicine.

For Lori and Randy Graman, telemedicine was a natural fit in helping to care for Lori’s mother, Norma, a resident of Four Winds. Both of Lori’s parents, Norma and Richard, have lived with dementia. Richard passed away Jan. 25, 2018, after starting in the Fast Track Rehab neighborhood and moving into memory care following a stroke. Norma moved to Four Winds in April.

Lori had provided care for both her parents before their moves to Four Winds. The moves allowed Lori a critical respite from being the primary caregiver for her parents. At the time, Lori had suspected that her mother had stopped taking her medications after her husband passed away.

“The care my dad received here was just incredible,” Lori said. “I can’t say enough about the staff here and the way they treated us — my husband, me and my mom, who was still at home at the time. I knew when the time came for Mom [to move to a senior living community], this is where she had to be. There was just no other place.”

After Norma moved to Four Winds, she started seeing Dr. Mandy Pollack, said Licensed Practical Nurse Tammy Adkins. The doctor changed Norma’s medications and she began to improve. All this was done through video technology.

The alternative, according to Tammy, was a potential short-term stay in a behavioral unit. But research shows older adults fare much better outside of the hospital setting. Routines are an important part of living in a retirement community and can be difficult to maintain in other settings. By utilizing telemedicine, Norma’s nurses were able to keep her in a secure memory care neighborhood, and her demeanor has improved greatly. She is settling in as the “mother hen” who takes care of her peers and brings joy to those she meets.

Reprinted with permission from United Church Homes‘ monthly Spirit magazine.

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