Telehealth – Keeping Loved Ones Home for the Holidays

Decorating, wrapping gifts and cooking holiday meals can be challenging for the healthiest amongst us. However, an unforeseen injury or illness can complicate the best of our well-laid plans.

Lutheran SeniorLife’s Telehealth services provide a virtual pathway of care designed to help you or your loved ones remain at home during the holidays and throughout the year.


Telehealth: Elevating Patient Care

Every day Geraldine Kaylor, 94, of Butler wakes up at 7 am, eats breakfast, takes her morning medications, and reads her daily devotion. At 9:00 a.m., a voice from her wireless tablet reminds her, “It is now time to check your vital signs.”

According to Kaylor’s daughter-in-law, Deb Kaylor, Geraldine spent several weeks in the hospital in October with multiple health concerns. Once discharged, she enrolled in the telehealth program delivered through the Visiting Nurses Association of Western Pennsylvania (VNA).

Kaylor takes her vital signs daily: blood pressure, weighs herself, and uses the pulse oximeter to record her oxygen levels. Her tablet automatically transmits her vital signs to a nurse at the VNA.  At this point, the nurse determines if Kaylor’s vital signs are within a “normal range.”

According to Deb, Geraldine’s blood pressure has been high since returning from the hospital. The Telehealth program provides Geraldine’s doctor with the ability to monitor her vital signs. With her blood pressure persistently high, her doctor adjusted her medications subsequently lowering her blood pressure.

Thanks to Telehealth, Kaylor celebrated Thanksgiving at home with her family.  “We work closely with everyone who needs a little extra help staying safe and healthy at home,” noted Margie Walsh, VNA Executive Director.

When asked about the benefits of the Home Health program, Kaylor said, “I feel more calm, not as nervous… Peach of mind—that means a lot.”

How does Telehealth work?

According to Karla Pagan, Clinical Admissions Manager for the VNA, the process begins when the VNA receives a referral from a doctor’s office or hospital. Once we receive the patient’s care-plan, a nurse and technologist visits the patient to assess, install and educate the patient on how to use the technology, explained Pagan.

Each patient receives Bluetooth enabled devices including a blood pressure cup, scales and a pulse oximeter, as well as a tablet to record the patient’s vital signs. “We don’t leave the home until the patient feels comfortable using it (technology),” elaborated Pagan.

Telehealth provides a virtual pathway for the nurse to notice any subtle changes in the patient’s daily condition and share with their doctor. These life-engaging services inform doctor’s decisions to make changes in the patient’s health care based on the daily results. For example, if a patient gains weight, the doctor may adjust medications. This type of care “keeps our patients out of the hospital and independent in their home,” said Pagan. “Telehealth does not replace home visits but elevates patient care with our monitoring capabilities.”

Telehealth: Virtual Home Safety Visits

The Rehabilitation Services at Lutheran SeniorLife recently added telehealth virtual home safety visits to help patients return home much faster. Our goal is to support families in adapting home environments for the use of any new adaptive equipment to make home activities easier to manage, explained Amy Stewart, Director of Corporate Rehabilitation.

Seated left to right: Granddaughter Jenna Harrold, holding great granddaughter Emmy Harrold, Geraldine Kaylor, Daughter-in-law, Deb Kaylor holding great granddaughter, Parker Harrold. Standing left to right. Wyatt Loomis (hiding face), great grandson, Lisa Loomis granddaughter, Jaxon Loomis, great grandson and Braden Kaylor, son.

“A huge part of getting our patients home as quickly as possible is making sure that their home is livable,” explained Stewart.  By conducting virtual safety visits, we are able to determine if any changes need made prior to our patients returning home following rehab.

For example, Jane recently spent a few days at the Butler Advanced Care Center (ACC) for a short rehab stay. While at the ACC, Jane’s son conducted a virtual home safety visit with a therapist. The therapist directed her son to measure the stairs, as well as the height of the bed, and toilet to ensure Jane’s new equipment could be in place and ready for her return.

The therapist made some suggestions and Jane’s son upgraded her home so his mom could live successfully on her own.  “She was so happy to be on her way home,” explained Stewart. “It’s a win- win for both Jane and her family!”