Struggling With Independence After a Stroke?

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A smart glove could lend a hand

Approximately 795,000 Americans experience a stroke each year, and about 75 percent of them are aged 65 or older.

For seniors, the physical and social impacts of a stroke can be drastic and long-lasting — limited limb mobility, memory loss, and increased reliance on loved ones and caregivers to perform even the most basic tasks — getting out of bed, holding a cup of water, opening a door, or brushing your teeth. 

Fortunately for the hundreds of thousands of seniors who face mobility challenges after a stroke, rehabilitation has improved in the past 10 years and there are new tools and technologies to help you regain your independence.

21st century rehabilitation: Clay’s story

Dr. Clay Whybark celebrated his 60th wedding anniversary in his hospital bed. 

Three weeks prior, at age 81, he was enjoying Father’s Day with his family when a sudden spinal stroke left him bound to a hospital bed and facing months of physical and occupational therapy. 

Both sides of his body were impacted by the incident — he couldn’t feel temperature on his right side and he had minimal movement in his left hand. When he was discharged from the hospital, he had to rely on his wife for support and assistance with even the most basic tasks, like using a fork, opening a door, and plugging his cell phone into a charger. More complicated maneuvers, like eating with chopsticks — something he loved to do prior to his stroke — were completely off the table.

To improve his upper limb mobility and regain some of his independence, Clay was prescribed daily rehabilitation. While the monotony of repetitive exercises can be discouraging for many patients, Clay decided to keep his sense of humor and take on rehabilitation with as much fun as he could — specifically by using games. 

Clay was particularly intrigued by the NEOFECT Smart Glove, a rehabilitation glove with built-in sensors that uses Bluetooth to mimic a patient’s movements on a TV screen so patients can play interactive games like “pour the wine” to strengthen their hand mobility. The glove could be used at home, so Clay could supplement his treatment without having to travel to a rehabilitation facility each day, and it would send data on his progress to his physicians for remote monitoring.

The game format of the exercises was much more engaging than some of the traditional exercises Clay had been assigned, and kept him committed to his recovery. Clay has a pilot’s license, so a game called “fly the plane” was especially motivating and reminded him of just what he was working so hard to achieve. 

By including the high-tech glove in his regular rehabilitation routine, Clay is recovering his hand movement faster than with traditional rehab alone and doesn’t need to lean on his wife as much for help. 

How technology fosters independence

Advancements in technology along with patients’ increasing desire to take a more active, personal role in their healthcare are spurring a wave of new, at-home solutions to help patients rehabilitate faster and regain their independence.

For instance, patients seeking to recover hand mobility can improve hand-eye coordination with a digital pegboard that requires users to repeatedly place wooden pegs into a large board and gradually increase their speed. For upper arm rehabilitation, patients might use a Smart Board, a device with a sliding handle on a Bluetooth-connected board that patients grip and maneuver to simulate exercises on a TV or computer screen.

To combat cognitive and neurological impairment, like Alzheimer’s and dementia, there are cognitive games for attention and memory training. And if rehabilitation is not an option for people with permanent paralysis, there are functionally assistive devices like the NeoMano robotic glove. With the press of a button, the glove closes the wearer’s hand, allowing them to grip objects, like a cup of water, despite any hand paralysis.

Opening doors literally

If you’ve suffered a stroke or other condition affecting your mobility, it’s important to not lose hope. Mobility may be one of the most common disabilities for seniors and an unapologetic thief of independence, but there are solutions that can open doors for quicker recovery (actually, you could be doing the door opening)! 

February is Senior Independence Month, but you could be just beginning your journey to increased mobility and, ultimately, a more independent and fulfilling golden years. 

About the author

Scott Kim is the cofounder and CEO of NEOFECT USA, a med-tech company that helps stroke survivors and people with spinal cord injuries regain independence and live fuller, more active lives. 

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