New rehab suites use variety of tech
July 4, 2018
HALIFAX – Two new suites at the Nova Scotia Rehabilitation Centre will give patients transitioning out of hospital the chance to practice living independently. One of the independent-living simulation suites is equipped with technology, including voice-activated doors, cabinets and a hospital bed that can make the transition even easier.
The suite includes cabinets that can lower to a wheelchair-accessible height with a voice command and doors that can be opened using eye-operated communication.
“That’s not necessarily what they can have when they move home. But it gives them motivation to start looking at solutions that fit their needs,” said Kim Parker (pictured), a rehabilitation engineer at the centre.
“I think a big part of rehab is confidence,” said Parker. “So I’m hoping that after practising their kitchen skills, or even interacting with the technology, they’re going to feel more prepared to do this on their own in their home.”
Parker said people don’t always think of technology as part of the accessibility puzzle. But for someone with a disability, even widely available technology like a smartphone can make a big difference.
“For a lot of these individuals, just actually learning how to re-engage with their cell phone and make a telephone call is hugely powerful. So just showing them how to use things like Siri and just to say, ‘Hey Siri, call mom,’ that’s a big step for someone who is going through the rehab process.”
Some of the technology in the suite is consumer-based, while other elements are specialized assistive technology. Parker said the suite offers a wide range of features to allow patients to test technology that fits their budget.
The suites, funded by donations to the QEII Foundation, replace an existing suite at the rehab centre.
An Amazon Echo will allow patients to control doors, lights and other features using voice.
Joanne Comeau, a manager at the Nova Scotia Health Authority, said the former suites weren’t always welcoming for patients or therapists.
“Patients almost didn’t want to go down [to the former suite],” she said. “This is just a huge change. Many patients will benefit.”
Patients and therapists will be able to practise skills in the suites throughout the week. On the weekends, patients will be able to stay in the suites with their families.
Comeau said they don’t expect people to use all of the available features in the suites, but test which are most useful for their needs.
Comeau said whether someone is recovering from a stroke, or in a situation where they’re only able to move their head, the suites are there to give someone a vision of what life could be like.
“I don’t think someone is going to come and [use] everything here, that wasn’t the purpose,” she said. “It was to put many options in here and then, depending what their abilities are, bring out the features that would be best for them.”