Martha Tuttle, a resident at Heritage Gardens Health Care Center in Southern California, watches a fox skitter across the screen as it tries to steal grapes. She shifts her weight left and right to keep the fox hungry; she likes to keep focused on the game once it’s started. “Someone was trying to get my attention the other day,” Martha says with a chuckle, “and I told them they had to wait. The fox was eating all these damn grapes! And the grapes are more important!” The game, as Martha refers to it, actually is not a game at all; it is a complex virtual reality exercise that’s part of the OmniVR™, a piece of software designed to keep patients moving during physical therapy at skilled nursing facilities.
Integrated Rehabilitative Solutions Enhance Martha’s Life
Martha, a former nurse, says OmniVR has helped her prolong her therapy sessions because she becomes engrossed in the exercise and motivated by the encouragement of friends around the room. “It’s a lot of fun,” she says. “By the time you realize that you’re doing physical therapy, you’re stuck in the game.” Martha’s therapy is an hour long, five days a week, and currently involves a little time with OmniVR and a lot of time with a diathermy machine, which applies an electrical magnetic field. When she entered Heritage Gardens, she was bedridden and suffering with a pain level of 10 on a scale of one to 10 because of severe osteoarthritis in both knees. She credits the diathermy treatment combined with bilateral knee osteoarthritis orthotic braces from Accelerated Care Plus (ACP)—and the loving attention of the staff—for reducing her pain level to a 2, so that she can now walk more than a hundred yards with the help of a walker.
Both the OmniVR system and the diathermy machine are products of ACP, a Hanger business unit that supplies advanced rehabilitative devices and specialized protocols. Some skilled nursing facilities have adopted mainstream consumer games, such as the Nintendo Wii system, but many therapists appreciate a technology designed specifically for rehabilitative treatment that allows such advanced modifications as the ability to tailor OmniVR’s settings to the specific therapeutic needs of their patients. The software has dozens of exercises designed to improve such things as balance, muscle strength, wheelchair mobility, and cognitive functioning. The device works by using infrared light to track the user’s body position and movements, like the Kinect for Xbox 360 gaming system. There is no controller to hold; patients simply move their bodies according to the exercise.
Martha’s diathermy machine is one of two dozen clinical packages that ACP has developed for skilled nursing facilities. Some of the other devices include electrical stimulation, ultrasound, infrared light, and a motorized rehabilitation system called Omnicycle™. ACP provides the equipment as well as evidence-based protocols to help implement it toward better patient outcomes. Martha believes the equipment has been effective for her. “Between this machine for a half hour on each knee and the caring people working with it, it’s been marvelous,” says Martha, whose goal is to move from the nursing facility to the assisted living center next door at Heritage. “It depends on how far my improvement goes. It’s a miracle it’s gone this far. I’ll go as far as I can go.”