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Virtual rehabilitation adds fun to occupational therapy

Two skilled nursing and assisted living facilities in the valley have a new weapon in their rehabilitation arsenal to bring senior-age recovery to a different dimension.

Marquis Care at Centennial Hills, 6351 N. Fort Apache Road, and the Marquis Care at Plaza Regency, 6021 W. Cheyenne Ave., have begun offering virtual rehabilitation thanks to a system called OmniVR.

The system, developed by Reno-based Accelerated Care Plus, uses a 3-D camera and specialized computer software that captures a patient’s precise movement during six “skilled” therapeutic exercise categories.

Patients can be seated, perched at a walker or standing unassisted while they strengthen their minds and bodies via the new technology.

For residents and patients of Marquis Care at Centennial Hills , virtual rehabilitation is a norm as the facility has utilized it since opening its doors in October.

Eloise Smith, 81, became a long-term resident in January after a medical episode that left her weak and unable to stand for long periods of time.

Marquis Care at Centennial Hills rehabilitation director and occupational therapist Heather Gray eased Smith into recovery and independence with
OmniVR. Smith started with arm exercises, such as virtual volleyball, and eventually strengthened her legs and endurance with virtual chase and gardening games.

Smith is one of 55 patients at Marquis Care at Centennial Hills, and Gray said each has about 2½ hours of therapy a day in various capacities.

Tasks range from exercising to managing the full therapy kitchen or taking care of personal needs in the therapy bathroom. Patients at the facility are recovering from conditions ranging from strokes, surgeries and falls to dementia and degenerative conditions.

Most return to independent living after a stay. It is unknown how long Smith will stay at Marquis Care at Centennial Hills.

“Even though she won’t be going home with her daughter, we wanted to get her back to the best she can be,” Gray said. “We give them skills for the job of living.”

Smith resisted daily rehabilitation at first, Gray added, but OmniVR helped coax her into the room. As she guided a virtual fox to its dinner of grapes, Smith hardly realized she was improving on her tolerance to stand, Gray said.

“Hey, he’s cute,” Smith said to the screen.

OmniVR is being used in about 4,000 skilled nursing homes, hospitals, outpatient clinics and home health agencies nationwide. It resembles interactive game systems such as the Nintendo Wii.

Dozens of puzzles also are in the system to assist with cognition.

An occupational therapist or assistant stands with the patient, and a black walker is used if forward balance is shaky. The system can’t sense the walker during a program.

Some games are multi-player for group rehabilitation.

“People are still competitive no matter what age you are,” Gray said.

The virtual aspects often entice patients, such as the once-hesitant Smith, and help them have fun. Other traditional therapies are practiced in conjunction with it.

“It’s like a perfect adjunct to get the person to the highest level we can get them,” Gray said. “It’s a wonderful addition to our therapy department.”

Contact Centennial and Paradise View reporter Maggie Lillis at mlillis@viewnews.com or 477-3839.

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