Older adults who live in nursing homes or long-term care (LTC) facilities are at the greatest direct risk of contracting the new coronavirus and having severe symptoms. To combat this threat, LTCs have enforced extreme social distancing measures, such as banning visitors and eliminating group recreational activities and congregate dining.
Unfortunately, those measures may also reduce social support for these older adults, which could trigger a large-scale mental health crisis in LTC. Fortunately, psychologists are considered “essential providers” and can continue to provide services to LTC residents.
Although psychologists, as essential healthcare workers, may continue to provide onsite services, for many reasons, in-person services may not be an option during the COVID-19 crisis. In these situations, telehealth is a viable service delivery modality to support LTC residents and maintain continuity of care.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is allowing psychologists to offer telehealth services directly to LTC residents using common and easy-to-use videoconferencing platforms (such as Zoom Video, Skype and Facetime), via the client’s own computer or smartphone or a facility-provided device.
Providing telehealth in LTC facilities can be challenging because most residents do not have their own personal devices. In addition, facilitating services requires coordination with staff already overburdened by the current health care crisis.
Here are ways psychologists can help ease the telehealth process for LTC residents.