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Telehealth Can Help Ease Stress for Family Caregivers, AARP Tells Congress

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En español | Expanded Medicare coverage of telehealth services can help ensure older adults have access to the health care they need. But it’s also one way the federal government can ease the strain on family caregivers, AARP wrote in comments submitted to congressional lawmakers this week.

“Telehealth may offer working or long-distance family caregivers an alternative way to participate in their loved one’s medical care,” we wrote. “By reducing travel, wait times and costs associated with in-person care, telehealth can also allow caregivers more time to tend to their own needs, which can alleviate some of the stress linked with balancing caregiving responsibilities with other obligations.”

Our comments were part of written testimony we submitted to the U.S. House Energy & Commerce Health Subcommittee, which is considering several bills that would permanently expand telehealth coverage for Medicare beneficiaries. Medicare lifted restrictions on telehealth coverage during the COVID-19 pandemic, but those limits are set to return after Dec. 31 unless Congress acts.

In our statement, we shared the story of AARP volunteer Karla Abbott, who became a long-distance caregiver when her father got ill. Since he lived on a tribal reservation, appointments were often far from his home, making every doctor’s visit “an all-day affair.”

When her father, who is now deceased, lost his vision and needed someone to drive him to appointments, Abbott was forced to miss work and spend considerable time away from her family to ensure her father’s needs were met. “Telehealth could have made a huge difference in their lives,” our statement noted.

AARP has worked to expand access to telehealth as a way to improve health care access for older adults. Last year, we endorsed the CONNECT (Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies) for Health Act, which would permanently allow telehealth coverage for all Medicare beneficiaries. And we’ve long encouraged telehealth as a way to eliminate barriers to health care for people living in rural areas or underserved communities.

Read our statement and keep up with AARP’s health coverage.

Natalie Missakian covers federal and state policy and writes AARP’s Fighting for You Every Day blog. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Haven Register and daily newspapers in Ohio. She has also written for the AARP Bulletin, the Hartford Business Journal and other publications.

Also of Interest:

3 Ways Telehealth Can Improve Medical Care in Rural America
How to Connect With Your Doctor Virtually
A Step-by-Step Guide to Using Telemedicine

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