Getting Old Sucks. Can Virtual Care Help?
It was 8:55 am and the gentle ‘ding’ on my laptop told me that Joan had just arrived into my virtual waiting room. All I had to do was click on the little green icon to let Joan into my home, and me into hers.
There she was, beaming in her living room. Joan is an amazing, progressive, 87-year old who has spent much of her life traveling all over the world. The COVID experience had been challenging, as she was now holed up in her apartment in an assisted living facility.
With all the risk factors for contracting the disease, Joan had to be all the more careful when it came to leaving her home. She had been confined to her living space, with not a single step outdoors for the last 3-months. So, she was happy for any form of human contact.
We were both thrilled to see each other and after exchanging pleasantries, she said “Jag, I know you can’t examine me over this tele-portal, but I have all my readings ready for you. My heart rate about 30 minutes ago was 73, the upper blood pressure reading was 130 and the lower one 70. I do not have a fever and my oxygen levels are 93.”
She quickly added that she had invested in an oxygen saturation monitor because of the pandemic and her precarious lung situation given her long standing chronic obstructive lung disease. Amazed, I jokingly asked her if she had listened to her own heart and lungs.
We talked about her condition for the next 15 minutes. I was disturbed to know that she had to completely stop taking daily walks due to the restrictions imposed within her living facilities — it made it tough to know if she was symptomatic with exertion, since she was now sedentary most of the time. Still, there were no changes to make in her medications and I began reassuring her and winding down my conversation. I had another patient to get to.
Joan, however, would not let go. She wanted to chat. She pulled a photo-frame from the center table, and introduced me to her grandchildren, 7-year-old Martin and 13-year-old Ella. She was visibly upset that she could not hug them and spend time with them. I chatted with her for a few minutes, realizing this was more than a consultation. It was her…