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Use It or Lose It [Kilgore News Herald, Texas :: ]
[August 06, 2014]

Use It or Lose It [Kilgore News Herald, Texas :: ]

(Kilgore News Herald (TX) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Aug. 06--Robert Smallwood knows his way around a hand of blackjack.

He's not as family with computer games, nevertheless the house is down a solid 12,000 credits in a matter of minutes as the 86-year-old puts the digital dealer to shame on the Willows of Kilgore's new iN2L Therapy touchscreen.

In the meantime, Smallwood has bettered his hand/ eye coordination, he's maintained a solid stance despite a recent hip injury, he's built up additional arm strength and he's standing a little taller before the app-oriented eye-level computer terminal.

Jessica Harvey's typicallyelderly patients aren't usually tech-savvy, unaccustomed to the technicolor icons dotting the interface of the 'It's Never Too Late' system. It takes some convincing, the occupational therapy assistant said, to communicate the benefits of the e-exercises.

"Sometimes they ask, 'Is this really therapy?' Then I start to break it down for them from a therapy standpoint," Harvey explained. "It's shocking to them sometimes." With 4,000-plus apps preinstalled in the iN2L setup, Harvey too is still amazed at the variety of tasks therapists can set for their patients as they wheel the terminal throughout the Willows, whether into the rehab-center or a patient's room. From a bicycle simulator to a flight simulator, memory tests, speech exercises, customizable puzzles, even karaoke and church hymns, the system is extremely-adaptable to the particular needs of each client.

"There's so many different things that they can do," she said, a far cry from the triedand true traditional therapy methods that quickly lose their appeal. And, as therapy often brings pain, mental stimulation in any form is valuable: "Anything to get them engaged where they're not so bored." The Willows implemented the new system in May. It's the "cutting edge" of technology, marketing director Dana Hufstetler told Kilgore Rotarians Wednesday, using late-generation hardware and software tailored to an aging population.

Keeping residents sharp, keeping them fit, keeping them flexible, the revitalized therapy regimen is making for even speedier recoveries.

"It's all about sending them back home or letting me be at the highest level they can in their environment so they do have quality of life," she said. "The brain is like any other muscle -- if you don't use it, you lose it." With only one portable terminal on hand right now, the touchscreen, keyboard and speakers are a hot commodity for residents, many of whom now seem eager for their therapy sessions instead of dreading them.

"This is sort of like their motivator," Harvey said. "I'm definitely seeing them more engaged. I'm getting them to stand a lot longer, I'm getting them to reach a lot of further." Even apps as basic as popping digital bubbles or poking pixelated fish can be valuable.

"It's just relating what we would call a game to the therapy environment," Harvey said. "Whatever gets them involved and gets them engaged in therapy so that way yet can do more and be comfortable, that's what we're going to do." The system's developers have also included a wide assortment of comfort-oriented apps. Historical videos, for example, may not require any serious engagement, but if they hold the patient's attention for an extended period while he or she is standing erect, with good posture, they've had an impact.

Similarly, the iN2L is preloaded with "thousands" of other videos, not just exercises tapes but church services in addition to audio clips of sermons, hymns and classic songs.

In one recent success story, Harvey said, an elderly woman refused to rise to her feet, time and again. Encouraged by the promise of a mini-worship service from the iN2L speakers, however, the woman finally complied with her therapist's request.

"What's amazing was she hadn't stood for two years and now she stood for 10 minutes," Harvey said. "It's just the little baby steps that this has allowed us to do. Whatever gets them involved and gets them engaged in therapy so that way yet can do more and be comfortable, that's what we're going to do." The same music-oriented apps are doing wonders for speech therapy patients, she added.

"It has thousands of pictures and words. They can start communicating through this tool. It's really a helpful tool for us to communicate in therapy." Other programs allow therapists to visit patients' homes, take pictures and upload them into a program so the client can see fall-risks in the way furniture is laid out or in objects strewn about.

"While we're at the Willows we can talk about their entire home environment with their families, with the patient," Harvey said. "We can also make some changes way in advance before they go home. That gives us the opportunity to really be one on one with them in their home environment." It's another good motivator, Hufstetler added.

"I think that encourages them to get back in their home as well," she insisted.

That's the plan, Smallwood said Thursday after cashing in his virtual chips.

"I busted my leg just before Easter," he explained, crediting the new-and-improved physical therapy regimen with helping him get back on his feet and -- despite to hip surgeries since his arrival at the Willows -- headed home soon. "They've got some of the most dedicated people here. They bend over backwards to help you." Now well-versed in the touchscreen activities, Smallwood says the iN2L system has been a challenge that's shown results.

"It take some concentration ... really puts you in your toes." ___ (c)2014 the Kilgore News Herald (Kilgore, Texas) Visit the Kilgore News Herald (Kilgore, Texas) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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