Written by Sophie Johnson
The healthcare industry has been transformed by the pandemic, and one part of healthcare that was thrust into the spotlight over the last 16 months is geriatrics. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that older adults were more at risk of coronavirus complications, which put them at a higher likelihood of being hospitalized. This has changed how the healthcare sector has responded to seniors, and it will continue to shape how geriatric healthcare will continue in the new normal.
How COVID Affected Geriatric Care
The elderly were affected more severely by the pandemic because they were already a vulnerable population to begin with. Beyond preventing and treating the virus itself, healthcare centers also had to mitigate the adverse effects of extended isolation for older patients. Other restrictions also prevented seniors from getting the physical activity needed to maintain their health, leading to a faster-deteriorating state.
The beginning of the pandemic presented the greatest challenge for geriatric healthcare workers since there were physical distancing protocols in place. Geriatric care shifted to telehealth to meet the needs of older adults. This presented many challenges, the most pertinent one being how to increase the digital literacy of older people, as it became the main way to access resources and contact persons. As these challenges continued, caregivers and family members have had to give more support to seniors to ensure that their needs would be met and, ultimately, prevent hospitalization.
How Geriatric Care Will Change in the New Normal
The way care has changed during COVID-19 will likely continue into the new normal, but there will certainly be some changes in the preventive measures taken to ensure older adults are resilient, healthy, and safe.
Telehealth will grow
According to Pew Research, only about 40% of people aged 74 to 91 years use the internet. However, this is drastically changing. Doctors are seeing more and more virtual visits from older people as part of their practice. And with the ability to access doctors online becoming much easier now, senior patients may be inclined to make more visits, which will significantly improve their overall health.
Our post How Telehealth Is Being Used to Treat Mental Health discussed how telehealth has also already improved mental health for older people through online therapy, emergency services, and remote monitoring programs, all of which are likely to become the norm in the new normal.
People will have more than one physician
Older people will likely be seeing teams of doctors rather than just one dedicated physician. It is a more efficient and cost-effective way of accommodating patients and for those patients to have their needs met without long waits. And with easier access to more doctors, seeing several specialists is now easier than before.
Coverage plans will become a priority
Apart from getting vaccinated, the CDC also recommends seniors take extra preventive measures to protect themselves from contracting COVID-19. However, individual efforts such as wearing a mask and a healthy lifestyle may no longer be sufficient, especially for older people who are at risk of suffering from other conditions.
This increased awareness in the new normal will see a rise in older adults investing in medical plans. Fortunately, the healthcare industry has long anticipated this, with many different plans available that cater to specific needs. Kelsey Care Advantage outlines the different packages available, some focusing on dental care while others put a premium on cardiovascular conditions. Older adults may even prefer medical coverage that includes medication and fitness benefits. Being prepared in this manner will allow older people to feel more secure should any health concerns come about in the future, COVID or otherwise.
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