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Smart home devices assist recovery from injury

For patients recovering from injury — even paralysis — smart home devices can improve quality of life and help regain independence. Staten Island University Hospital is providing awareness of these technologies in its inpatient rehabilitation.

After being discharged from inpatient physical therapy facilities, some patients go to sub-acute home care services because family members can't be at home with them, or afford home care. Emerging technology - smart home devices - may be the smart choice to remedy this issue.

These devices can significantly improve the quality of life for people who are disabled or recovering from injury. The smart home device industry is booming. And the devices allow users to control lighting, thermostats and even the coffee pot from a smartphone, tablet or voice control.

The inpatient rehabilitation department at Staten Island University Hospital introduced the Smart Home Cabinet to demonstrate this new way of living.

"Patients can go home. We don't want to take that option away from them," said Urvi Kadakia, an occupational therapist. "These items allow them to have their independence and autonomy."

Raymond Lopez, a former patient who now volunteers in the rehab center, is a beneficiary of this technology. Mr. Lopez was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome in 1988 and was once paralyzed from the neurological disorder.

"I still face residual problems," he said. "I can easily trip if the lights are not on. This allows me to easily access my lights at any time, day or night. The safety aspect of this is tremendous."

Safety and independence are at the heart of smart devices.

Displayed in the Smart Home Cabinet are smart lights, which allow users to adjust brightness and color, as well as program on/off times. The electronic pill dispenser allows individuals to fill their medication into the device, which then locks them in place until the scheduled time for their dosage. The smart thermostat is also remote controlled.

"With my condition I tend to be on the warm side," Mr. Lopez said. "I can easily control the temperature from anywhere - even if I'm out and on my way home."

Ms. Kadakia said the cabinet will continuously be updated and include the latest smart technology. But there is much more.

"There are other items that aren't on display, which include a bidet - a very important tool because many patients come in expressing how they have difficulty cleaning themselves after toileting," Ms. Kadakia said. "It is embarrassing for them, but this allows them to take care of their personal hygiene without needing assistance."

Recognizing the importance of this project, Daniel Stringer-Akesson from Plant Operations took the construction of the hospital's smart home display to a higher-level.

"When Urvi showed me the items for the smart home, I think originally she was picturing more of a doll house," he said. "But these are real items we are displaying. I wanted to make the smart home as interactive as possible, but at a level where those in wheelchairs could easily access."

Patients are able to adapt the technology to their specific living situations. The team plans to enrich the program, and encourage more patients to turn a house into a smarter home.

"Patients can go home. We don’t want to take that option away from them. These items allow them to have their independence and autonomy."
— Urvi Kadakia
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