We could all use a little proverbial help from our friends, at times—especially those of us who rely on those same friends to help us out, in a pinch. However, for those times that friends aren’t available, home-based care from a nurse practitioner can help assuage the stress and difficulty of caring for an ailing family member. Especially for full-time caregivers, it’s important to find time away from home in order to remain connected to a regular schedule of daily or weekly outings and extracurricular activities unconnected to one’s caregiving duties.
Many older patients, especially, struggle with depression due to circumstances such as the loss of a loved one or chronic health conditions that make everyday tasks more difficult than before their diagnoses. Because of this, regularly scheduled doctor’s appointments are especially important in order to get checked out for seasonal, situational, or clinical depression. There’s a fascinating cultural divide between older adults who see themselves as highly resilient and those who struggle to find meaning in their lives. Much of this is dependent upon the condition of individual patients; however, some of this resilience is based on cultural or religious norms.
Home visits from a nurse practitioner can help lower the risk of infection from hospital-borne illness. Because of cultural resistance in many older individuals to admitting the need for extra help, living assistance, or counseling, in-home nursing care can also prove especially helpful, even necessary, in order to deal with widespread, common ailments like insomnia, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), influenza, and undiagnosed anxiety or depression. The latter types of mental illness are often under diagnosed due to cultural or familiar stigma, peer pressure, or distrust of Westernized medicine.
Another benefit to home nurse visits is the increased familiarity between nurses and patients as a result of more time spent with the same patient, allowing for increased familiarity. Despite an improved level of knowledge and understanding between patients and nurses, the pay rate for in-home nursing care is lower than that which is designated for in-hospital appointments. However, the shift from doctors to nurse practitioners is good because it is providing more opportunities for career training and advancement.
The increased prevalence of wireless devices like smartphones and webcams is also changing the nature of what will soon be possible on a wider scale when it comes to house-calls. However, the move to telemedicine—defined by Wake Forest University as the use of telecommunication and information technologies to provide healthcare at a distance—isn’t all that revolutionary. This is because online communication technology like Skype and FaceTime has existed for a few years, now; telemedicine would merely be providing a different context for using it. In addition, to emergency medicine, pharmaceutical, and trauma care, one major type of use for telehealth is counseling.
Remote counseling makes a lot of sense for a number of reasons. First of all, one of the major reasons people never seek help for mental health issues is because of the difficulty of seeking out and physically traveling to a suitable office, as well as finding a compatible counselor or psychiatrist. Sometimes the trip to a new counselor or psychiatrist’s office is even more terrifying than the session itself. Moreover, the ability to meet with a counselor from home eliminates excess time spent in a car or waiting room. If access to reliable transportation to get patients to and from appointments is an issue, as was the case with a pilot program serving Native American populations with limited access to in-person counseling, telecommunication solves one important aspect of the above scenario by eliminating the need for a car.
Here’s hoping telemedicine and in-home nurse visits help to chip away at some of the factors previously considered barriers to treatment, especially for older adults and shut-ins: limited mobility, cultural stigma, lack of transportation, and hesitance to trust doctors over family and friends or self. Luckily, it seems as if a part of what has changed is the idea that we must improve our health alone.
Rather, wellness, prevention, and diagnostic care require patience, time, and a community willing to work with us toward common health goals. Only when we feel connected to our social networks in an authentic way can we feel like we belong in a variety of ways. Then we can begin the path to true healing, on all levels, rather than merely the physical.
Image Source: Carl Glover