Objectives: Social distancing under the COVID-19 pandemic has restricted access to community services for older adults with neurocognitive disorder (NCD) and their caregivers. Telehealth is a viable alternative to face-to-face service delivery. Telephone calls alone, however, may be insufficient. Here, we evaluated whether supplementary telehealth via video-conferencing platforms could bring additional benefits to care-recipient with NCD and their spousal caregivers at home.
Participants: Sixty older adults NCD-and-caregiver dyads were recruited through an activity center.
Design, intervention: The impact of additional services delivered to both care-recipient and caregiver through video conference (n = 30) was compared with telehealth targeted at caregivers by telephone only (n = 30), over 4 weeks in a pretest-post-test design. Interviews and questionnaires were conducted at baseline and study's end.
Measurements, results: Supplementary telemedicine had averted the deterioration in the Montreal Cognitive Assessment evident in the telephone-only group (ηp2 = 0.50). It also reversed the falling trend in quality of life observed in the telephone only group (QoL-AD, ηp2 = 0.23). Varying degrees of improvements in physical and mental health (Short-Form 36 v2), perceived burden (Zarit Burden Interview Scale) and self-efficacy (Revised Caregiving Self-Efficacy Scale) were observed among caregivers in the video-conferencing group, which were absent in the telephone-only group (ηp2 = 0.23-0.51).
Conclusion: Telemedicine by video conference was associated with improved resilience and wellbeing to both people with NCD and their caregivers at home. The benefits were visible already after 4 weeks and unmatched by telephone alone. Video conference as the modus operandi of telehmedicine beyond the context of pandemic-related social distancing should be considered.
Keywords: COVID-19 pandemic; Caregiver; dementia; telehealth.
Copyright © 2020 American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.