Family 411: New therapy with video games help adults recover from neurological diseases

More people are turning to video games to help recover from neurological conditions. (WSYX/WTTE)

More people are turning to video games to help recover from neurological conditions.

Stroke survivor Grace Sasaki of New Albany said it’s “game on” as she works to help her brain and body re-connect. Sasaki, 54 has a family business and five children so she is determined to get back what she lost after the stroke.

“Usually I am the one telling them to stop playing video games and now here I am playing video games myself,” said Sasaki, who is one of about 800,000 Americans a year who suffer a stroke.

Sasaki said her therapy is a game and a workout. “I wouldn’t normally go actual rock climbing so it gives me a chance to do some of those stretches and movement in a game.

Steve Childress, an occupational therapist for Ohio Health said he is encouraged by the success he sees with video game rehabilitation in patients.

“There were points in time where she did not know where to take her arm, where to reach and she kind of figures that out,” said Childress.

Childress said they are still using traditional exercises and tools to develop strength and movement. But using video games is one more way to motivate patients.

“After she found the video games , she turned a switch. Things came around.

She started figuring out , I can reach out , I can do that better than I thought I could.

So for her it was a huge confidence booster as a strengthening tool.”

“We get an opportunity with a lot of our patients to really see them grow all the way from barely walking at a household level to really getting out in the community and being able to do more things for themselves.

They get back to that active lifestyle before they had before their stroke,” said Childress.

Sasaki used her X-Box at home to practice the games. Some people use Nintendo Wi or other systems like PlayStation.

“As we pay more for our health care , hundreds of dollars spent on a commercial gaming system actually is a good value. We can likely deliver much better value to our therapy if they are able to engage at home and grow at home as opposed to only being able to engage when they are in a clinic,” said Childress.

Ohio Health is working on developing some new games according to Childress.

“We may be seeing a lot more with immersive virtual reality where I have a scene right in front of me and I am interacting with that scene. We could potentially taking patients to grocery stores, we could potentially be taking patients to golf courses within the walls of our clinic.”

The technology continues to advance and become less expensive. Childress said often patients feel more comfortable giving the video games a try.

“They feel failure when they drop things. They are really hard on themselves when things are frustrating. So you take that and reverse it , you put them in that 30 minute block where it’s ok, this is your therapy so move, practice. Exercise. There is no failure on it . They are much more likely to explore , much more willing to struggle.”

“Now I have a totally different relationship with the video game that it is a friend to me, something helpful and useful , a tool I can use , so I am embracing this technology,” said Sasaki.

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