Miami VA Healthcare System
Miami VA using technology to help Veterans
For the residents of Miami VA Community Living Center, video games, mp3 players and online chat sessions with family aren't just for the grandkids at college. By using the latest in technology, CLC Veterans are experiencing a better quality of life for themselves and their families.
Recreational therapists in the CLC take advantage of a range of technologies from cassette tapes, MP3 players, video games and touch screen computers to help homebound Veterans experience the world outside the hospital walls.
"We are focused on addressing quality of life as identified by our Veterans," said Lyn Blank, a recreational therapist in the CLC.
Different technologies being used by the CLC include MP3 recordings of the bible and other music that residents can listen to at their leisure, video games that can be played on the Wii gaming system and a new interactive computer system called Its Never Too Late.
"The first thing we do is assess someone's needs, interests and concerns as well as their symptoms and the reason they're admitted into the facility as a basis for the treatment we provide,' said Blank.
For instance, the Wii gaming system is used to engage Veterans in activities they are no longer able to do, like fishing or playing tennis, said Blank. It can also help address physical rehabilitation needs.
"These things can be used as leisure, but also can be used as treatment to help someone gain as much functional independence as they can and participate in activities they enjoy," said Blank.
Most recently the therapists have been using a system called Its Never Too Late. IN2L, is a system that uses an infrared touch screen computer and a categorized interface to help Veterans learn to navigate the web and take advantage of the information there.
"We use this for teaching people how to use computers in general," said Blank. "We use it to address any or all of the five domains that people have whether it’s cognitive, physical, social, emotional. We can also do spiritual on here."
The system helps Veterans do everything from watching a live stream of nursing puppies, to watching travel videos, playing games, listening to music and even sending postcards.
The system is refreshed every other month with new movies, music and games, and even allows Veterans to Skype with family and friends.
"We can do this [games] in a group; we can do this one-to-one with someone, but it encourages them to use their mind and their memory." said Blank.
The computer also comes with adaptive keyboards and mice to allow Veterans who are bed-bound to use the system.
"It helps us, help Veterans be the people they are," said Blank. "Age and infirmity doesn’t change us, but technology helps us be who we are."
"I like food, photography, making copies," said Daniel Ranes, a resident at the CLC and World War II Army Veteran, who uses the system daily.
"I'll do everything, see my children, great-grandchildren, go to Paris," said Ranes. "I can’t do all of that, but they bring it to me."