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Nintendo Wii Being Used in Nursing Homes For Rehab

Posted Nov 29 2008 12:21pm
images.jpeg Video games are not just a hobby anymore. These days, the Wii gaming system is being used for rehabilitation and patients are being healed through "Wiihab." The Wii video game system is used in treating patients recovering from stroke, broken bones, combat injuries and surgery. The different Wii games require body movements similar to traditional therapy exercises. The consoles are being used at many therapeutic facilities and even nursing homes. McLean County Nursing Home residents experienced "Wiihabilitaion" when an employee brought them a console to allow residents to play.

"The Wii gets them moving. It's also great for motivating sensory stimulation. And best of all, they really enjoy it," Donna Holtzinger, activity director for the McLean County Nursing Home, said.

"It allows people who are confined to a wheelchair the ability to play sports such as baseball again. It's also great in improving a person's range of motion. When we get the Wii, we even plan to start our own bowling league within the home," Holtzinger said. Along with being entertaining, it helps the patients improve their endurance, strength and coordination. It also helps patients with daily skills like brushing teeth and combing hair, because it allows you to use your fingers and hands in different ways.

Holtzinger said that Wii even had the ability to give a blind resident of the home a chance to play, "At first, she could bowl and bat as long as we told her when to swing. After a while, she could do it by herself."

Holtzinger also mentioned hearing about Wii's ability to increase brain stimulation in patients with Alzheimer's.

According to the BBC Web site, "Research suggests that [mental stimulation] postpones the onset of dementia and might reverse the process." A spokeswoman for the Alzheimer's Society said that Wii had been used in the care for Alzheimer's in a number of retirement homes in England and the feedback had been positive.

"I actually have the Wii at home. Although I think there are certain wellness and fitness aspects to the games, I don't believe it is a replacement for traditional rehab," Chris Byers, owner of Advanced Rehab and Sports Medicine Services, said.

"As the video game craze grows, companies will probably use it as more of an advertisement for their business because it has more of an appeal for the younger crowd. It allows the company to appear more technologically advanced to the public," Byers said.

Some Wii games require you to do jumping jacks and sit-ups, according to Byers. It is being used in therapeutic exercises for knee injuries, especially the tennis game, which permits the body to move in a side-to-side motion. It is usually used in the latter stages of rehabilitation, and is fun to do as a part of a traditional rehab plan. "It's trendy right now, kind of like step aerobics was. I am not saying that it's not good. But like all trends, I believe it will come and go," Byers said.
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