The Use of Telehealth Among People Living With Dementia-Caregiver Dyads During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Scoping Review

Background: Telehealth has gained substantial attention during the COVID-19 pandemic, and reimbursement policies in health care settings have increased access to remote modes of care delivery. Telehealth has the potential to mitigate care concerns for people living with dementia and their family caregivers. There is a paucity of knowledge on the performance of telehealth services and user experiences, especially among caregiving dyads during the pandemic. Objective: This study aims to describe the implementation, effectiveness, user experience, and barriers to accessing and using telehealth services for people living with dementia and their caregivers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods: Following the PRISMA-ScR (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses extension for Scoping Reviews) checklist, we searched 7 databases (PubMed, PsycINFO, AgeLine, CINAHL, Social Services Abstracts, Web of Science, and Scopus) and a web-based search engine (Google Scholar). The inclusion criteria for peer-reviewed English publications from March 2020 to August 2022 consisted of studies related to telehealth services for people living with dementia and their family caregivers and studies conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic. Results: A total of 24 articles (10 quantitative and 14 qualitative studies) from 10 different countries were included. The major findings of the reviewed articles were extracted and organized into the following 4 themes: study design characteristics—strategies were adopted to improve the accessibility and experience of people living with dementia-caregiver dyads; efficacy outcomes of telehealth services—robust evidence is lacking on the comparative effectiveness of in-person services; perceived experiences of people living with dementia and caregivers—most reviewed studies reported positive experiences of using telehealth services and perceived personal and social benefits from their participants; and barriers to accessing and using telehealth services—several barriers related to individuals, infrastructure, and telehealth environments were identified. Conclusions: Although evidence of its effectiveness is still limited, telehealth is widely accepted as a viable alternative to in-person care for high-risk groups, such as people living with dementia and their caregivers. Future research should include expanding digital access for those with limited resources and low technology literacy, adopting randomized controlled trial designs to establish the comparative effectiveness of different modes of service delivery, and increasing the sample diversity.

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