How Telemedical Solutions Can Help Slow Down The Growth Of Dementia In Patients

Discussing mental health has long been stigmatized by mankind. Unlike physical illnesses, mental illnesses are much more difficult to identify and treat. Only now, in the 21st century, have we been able to open up and accept mental illnesses a separate tangible entity that needs to be handled seriously.

For this reason, there is still little awareness on our part let alone treatments and solutions.  Most mental illnesses can be treated and eradicated if they are spotted and diagnosed at the right stage. Degenerative conditions- like Alzheimer and Parkinson can be monitored and maintained to augment and cope with its effects.

That being said, it is important for us to understand what mental health is to be able to know how we can treat and monitor mental diseases like dementia.

What is mental health?

Mental health is connected to our emotional, cognitive and behavioral well-being. When discussing mental health we are referring to how one behaves, feels and thinks. The absence of any mental disorder can also be referred to mental health.

While physical sickness is a more tangible form of diseases, mental health though latent, can be much more destructive than physical pain. It affects our relationships, daily life and can even lead to physical illness or injury. A mentally unhealthy person cannot function in their roles and responsibilities as a normal part of the community. He/she cannot enjoy life and process sensory details the same way as a normal person.

To cope with mental disorders and achieve a balance, people need a strong support system and psychological resilience. Disorders such as dementia that could be degenerative all have early signs and symptoms that if spotted at the right time, could save one and their family from unbearable losses and pain.

Types of Mental Disorders

Regardless of age, gender and ethnicity, experts believe anyone can develop a mental disorder. Common types of disorders can be:

  • Mood: major depression, persistent depressive disorder, bipolar disorder or seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
  • anxiety: panic disorder, phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder
  • schizophrenic
  • Degenerative: Alzheimer, dementia, Parkinson

Treatments and monitoring

Many mental health disorders can be treated or at least monitored with proper precautions and medications. There are several types of treatment for every mental disorder that can be tailored according to the needs of the patient.

In case of mental health, what may be applicable to one person may not be effective on another. Some treatments can be more effective than others when they are combined together.

Chronic mental illness patients, like dementia, have differing treatments at different stages of their life. Most experts believe that a well-informed patient can be a better judge at choosing what treatment is best for them.

Treatments and monitoring methods may include:

Psychotherapy

Talking it out has been found to be an effective approach to psychological disorders. Types of psychotherapy may include dialectical behavior therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and exposure therapy.

Medication

Medicines are the most effective form of treatment for physical disorders however for mental disorders, it can help to a certain extent but not completely cure it. Several mental illness related symptoms can be eradicated by administering medications on time.

Self-help

Lifestyle changes like reducing intake of alcohol, incorporating healthy eating and sleeping patterns can all collectively help to reduce the mental issue.

Telemedical monitoring

For many cases, where the patient needs to be monitored and is at high risk of self-injury or hurting others or even at risk of fatal conditions, Telemedicine can give healthcare providers greater control and access to the patient. It solves several medical issues that have already made tremendous waves in the medical field. We will further discuss telemedicine and how it can help slow down dementia in patients.

What is dementia?

Dementia-like many others mental disorders is a condition that causes a decrease in the mental ability that affects thinking, perception concentration, memory and problem-solving. It is caused due to the death of neurons (brain cells) responsible for our thought processing.

Dementia may be degenerative or vascular. Degenerative dementia causes the patient’s condition to get worse gradually. Some early signs of dementia include behavior changes such as concussion, restlessness, irritability, repetitive behavior, tearful or agitated. These can be very distressing for the person and their loved ones, especially without awareness.

Dementia may also bring with it other mental issues like depression, aggression, sleeplessness, incontinence or even unacceptable sexual behavior. The rate at which the condition grows may vary according to gender and age. Dementia is associated with aging and occurs after the age of 65.

Causes of this mental disease are connected with the damaging of brain cells or parts of the brain. Problems like the following can cause the onset of dementia:

  • Head injury
  • The decrease in oxygen supply to the brain areas
  • Pressure on the brain due to tumor
  • Hydrocephalus
  • Neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s
  • AIDS
  • Vitamin deficiency
  • Excessive alcoholism

Although, Alzheimer’s is the leading cause of degenerative dementia, the cause of Alzheimer’s is still unknown.

Vascular or multi-infarct dementia is caused by mini-strokes which constrict oxygen supply to the brain.

Apart from vitamin deficiency related dementia or head injury that can be treated by medications, there is little hope for treating and curing dementia. Monitoring a demented patient is much more effective in the long run.

There are treatments and drugs that can cure dementia if it is spotted in the early stages. Experts recommend getting a thorough assessment from a practitioner if you find any of the above symptoms and signs in yourself or loved one especially if they are above 65. Lifestyle changes such as a healthy diet, daily exercise and mental activities (e.g. crosswords, puzzles or computer games) can help prevent dementia. Make sure your diet provides the right amounts of nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D.

For a person suffering from dementia, Telemedicine can help cope with the changes. How virtual monitoring can play a major role in patients suffering dementia and revolutionize healthcare will be discussed ahead.

Some coping mechanisms and strategies for patients with dementia include redesigning the person’s environment adapt to their condition including house, gardens and care home renovations to make it easier for them to wander around without hurting or getting lost. Non-medical and alternative remedies like cognitive stimulation therapy, aromatherapy, music therapy, reminiscence therapy or color therapy can help maintain mental functioning in patients with mild-to-moderate dementia.

What is Telemedicine?

Telemedicine is a 360 degree, 24/7 virtual monitoring system that uses telecommunication technology to provide better healthcare remotely. Telemedicine made huge advancements with the help of the internet and video calls. Telecommunication technology is very similar to telehealth however with a more focused purpose.

While telehealth may be used publically for announcements, telemedicine is to provide more personalized clinical care. It helps doctors connect remotely with patients or physicians connect with other caregivers. There is little use of telemedicine in government and public health agencies or health administration systems and other nonclinical purposes.

The purpose of telemedicine is to provide a convenient way to effectively provide healthcare without physically being there. In various cases, people cannot travel or access quality healthcare in their region which is where telemedicine plays a major role.

Telemedicine, with 2-way video conferencing and media sharing technology, enables the physician to see the patient, conclude a visual diagnosis and document and record the encounter. Physician and patient can remotely share photos and record videos and video chat. Visual data and improved communication with the patient encourages an alternative to in-person visits effectively.

How can telemedicine solutions help patients with dementia?

Telemedicine incorporates three methods to provide patients with dementia healthcare.

Remote monitoring

Also known as ‘home telemedicine’ remotely monitoring patients allows the doctor to keep track of the patient’s health and condition from home using various medical gadgets. Patients may use medical gadgets at home to keep track of their glucose levels, vital signs and report their condition. This type of telemedicine is a game changer for treating chronic diseases like dementia or recovering patients.

Remote patient monitoring allows the doctor to check-in with the patients. Most patients with dementia may be too old for regular visits to the doctor’s office or care home may need constant expert guidance to take care of the elders without having the doctor to keep showing up at their door. Monitoring from a distance can allow doctors to catch potential warning symptoms before it is too late.

Store-and-Forward Telemedicine

This allows patients and physicians to send and receive medical data e.g. photos, vital signs and recorded videos of patients which can be very helpful for any caretaker of the patient with dementia (or the patient themselves). It can also help healthcare providers share accurate data and records amongst themselves to seek consultation and advice treatment. In dementia, doctors, nutritionists, and therapists need to keep in touch and update about the patient’s progress to provide the maximum effective treatment.

Real-time telemedicine

This type of telemedicine allows one on one, live, remote interaction of the healthcare provider with the patient/caregiver or other healthcare providers. This can effectively monitor a patient with dementia whether they are in a care home or at home. It is important that caregivers and physicians use a reliable telemedicine platform to monitor dementia patients.

This does, however, require both parties to coordinate beforehand like a doctor’s appointment. It is however much easier to access the person’s history and records while remote conferencing through telemedicine in the form of live videos, records, and other visual media. This enables the healthcare provider to assess and take better, informed decisions regarding the patient. It is easier for the caregiver as well to explain and comment on the patient’s condition without little verbal description. This leads to minimal chances of human error and sabotage.


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