While COVID-19 lockdown continues to play havoc with people’s plans and appointments, with many going into isolation during this time, rehabilitation in its traditional setting is not always possible…
However, for stroke patients, there are many options available to help sustain their recovery at home, several of which make use of the very latest in cutting-edge technology.
The Stroke Awareness Foundation is vocal in its promotion of the adoption of the latest tech, which often also enables users to make vital progress they may not have done without their usual specialist rehab.
Here, NR Times looks at a few of the options out there:
A high-tech project for cognitive rehabilitation after stroke, Cogwatch is a behaviour tracking system which will help patients who struggle with basic day-to-day activities. The system uses intelligent objects like a mug or kettle and the Kinect motion tracker to monitor the patient as they perform a task, such as making a cup of tea.
It will use behaviour prediction algorithms to detect when a person makes an error and will prompt them to correct their mistake.
The technique is based on methods used by occupational therapists as part of rehabilitation and can allow patients to access therapy practice in their own homes without the need for a therapist to be present – particularly important in the present climate where many people are self-isolating. Cogwatch is currently developing technology to assist with other daily tasks, such as preparing food and getting dressed, to help with regaining independence.
The smart glove, developed by Neofect, is a high-tech stroke rehab product for the hand which follows motions, measuring even the slightest movements with sensors while performing gamified exercises.
The glove builds on the benefits traditionally delivered by using hand putty, introducing a way of achieving therapy at home with the use of cutting-edge technology. The smart glove ensures a user completes their exercises correctly and gives instant feedback.
FitMi interactive therapy
The FitMi home therapy system helps users to accomplish the high repetition of exercise necessary to achieve results. The product, developed by Flint Rehab, has been proven to deliver benefits to leg, arm and hand mobility. It can adapt to a user’s level of mobility, even if that is minimal, and offers the motivation to continue via a computer.
The system is used in over 300 therapy centres worldwide and a fast-increasing total of 10,000 homes, with FitMi proving to be a rehabilitation option for stroke patients during isolation.
While a relatively simple device, its effects can be significant and is a low-tech option for users who are less confident in using technology.
The benefits of mirror therapy have been proven over several years and delivers benefits to stroke patients struggling with hand paralysis or clenched hands after stroke. The mirror box works by placing a mirror over the affected hand and uses its reflection to ‘trick’ the brain, retraining it to move the hand over time.
As part of rehabilitation at home, gaming can play an important role. Motion-controlled consoles like the Xbox Kinect or Nintendo Wii offer games which can motivate independent movement as a form of physiotherapy. The Able-X system comes with an adapted handset to allow patients with greater levels of paralysis to use their more able arm to help coordinate movements of the affected side.
Software developer Roke has also created a programme which links with the Kinect to track the movements of a person’s fingers, which can support the rehabilitation of the hand following a stroke.
There are increasing numbers of apps emerging for use by stroke patients as part of their recovery. Medical News Today points to the breadth and efficacy of apps on the market, including those which allow a patient or their loved ones to track appointments and medications, provide language therapy, train the brain, and even lower some risk factors for future strokes.
Among the selection include Cozi, a family organiser app which can help keep track of appointments through a colour coded calendar, and shopping and to-do lists can be shared with loved ones and updated in real time. Medisafe is another app which is recommended for enabling patients to keep up with their medication and dosage.
On the more physical side, the 7 Minute Workout Challenge app is a research-backed exercise programme which enables people to tailor their own programme depending on their stage of rehabilitation.
The developers of the app have put together 12 exercises to perform for 30 seconds each, and is built on research published in Neurology journal which claims exercising three to five times a week reduces the likelihood of a recurrent stroke by five-fold.
Virtual reality (VR)
Research has shown the effects of VR on stroke patients, both in immersive and non-immersive formats. In immersive VR, the person becomes fully ‘immersed’ in their environment through use of a VR headset, or non-immersive is delivered through a computer screen.
The user can control what is happening in both versions of VR by use of a joystick, mouse or sensor, and can experience welcome distraction in their immersive environment.
VR is said to play an important role in helping rehabilitation of the upper and lower limbs of stroke patients, as they recover motor skills and the brain forms new neural connections.
Users have reported an increase in confidence and a greater likelihood of using their affected limb spontaneously.
VR equipment can be used in a rehabilitation setting or at home, with the latter proving to be an enjoyable option for many people during isolation.
Arm training wheel
A more basic option than those which rely on technology, the arm training wheel can be an effective home rehabilitation option.
A weighted wheel, such as the Rolyan Pronation and Supination wheel, allows a user to strap their hand into the device and perform rotations on a tabletop.
The device has been credited for helping stroke patients who have suffered arm and hand paralysis or mobility problems, enabling them to exercise their hand even when the shoulder and arm muscles do not move at all.
Users have reported increased sensation and functionality in areas of their body which previously had little to none.