Bridgeville facility amps up physical therapy with virtual games

| Wednesday, May 1, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Sometimes physical therapy can be fun.

Residents at Country Meadows of South Hills Nursing and Rehabilitation Center often seem to forget that they are rehabbing when they use the OmniVR virtual rehabilitation system.

Made by Accelerated Care Plus, it features 20 games that can be adjusted to the needs of a specific resident, such as endurance, range of motion or cognitive skills.

“I think it has a lot to do with their mental states, as well, said Anita Kozel, program manager at the Bridgeville facility. “They are coming here because they have an orthopedic or acute need, and they want to be out of here as soon as possible. So anything that gives them the ability to not sit in the gym and do rote things over and over again is a plus. It enhances their plan of care here.”

Pat Wilson, 75 of North Strabane, is learning nonweight-bearing activities after breaking her ankle in April. She played the ant game in which she sat and kicked the ants, while letting the butterflies live.

Not only does the system pick up her motions to make sure she gets a full range of motion, it allows Wilson to use her cognitive skills to distinguish the different insects.

“When I came in here I couldn't hop,” Wilson said. “Now, I hop all the time over to the therapy room and back again. I have to become independent. The kicking of the ants was a little strange for me. I didn't know you needed to get your legs all the way back to the green. It really gets your legs going.”

Similar to a Wii game system, the virtual system does not use a remote controller and reacts in real time. Physical therapists can gauge progress with the amount of accuracy calculated at the end of the activity.

There even is healthy competition when family members come to visit. The OmniVR system can be set for multiple participants to play against each other.

“A lot of what we have seen and what we try to strive for is residents vs. family members that are visiting so that they have that ability to play competitive games with their grandchildren or their daughter,” Kozel said. “It doesn't seem as much as they are getting a workout as their just doing a fun activity.”

The camaraderie in the therapy room is obvious between the residents and physical therapists when people are playing the interactive games, whether it is “standing bingo” or trying to grab the grapes for the fox.

“The OmniVR is just a great addition, but if you don't have someone engaging you in a fun manor, even this doesn't have quite the impact that it does when you have the people that work with them that are really excited for them and encouraging them to do normal activities,” said Melissa Marchitello, marketing relations.

“We want to provide the type of environment that encourages people to get well.”

Brittany Goncar is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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