A diagnosis of ALS can be crushing for a formerly healthy person. ALS, or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, is a progressive disease which kills nerve cells and ultimately cause complete disability. There is no known cure for ALS, and people who have it slowly lose all of the ability to move their muscles – but their brains are completely intact. There are new types of state of the art therapy that can help ALS patients communicate and retain comfort in their state.

Communicating through technology

Since ALS patient gradually lose ability of movement, they become less and less capable of communicating and expressing themselves. This disability is compounded by the stress, anxiety and depression that may accompany it. What often remains when most physical action ceases is eye movement, and toward the end of their illnesses, ALS patients are often only to express themselves thorough this means. In recent decades, with the rise of computers and technology, there have been many programs that allow ALS patients to communicate with these eye movements, that may dictate full words, sentences, paragraphs and more through the use of a specialized computer technology.

As digital technology has exploded, health innovators have tapped amazing breakthroughs for the ALS community, resulting in new, advanced modes of therapy an communication for this group.

State of the art therapy – art therapy

A new study sought to examine how a digital interface might improve the communication ability and psychological awareness of ALS patients. Juliet King, first author of the study, said “This is a pilot project that we worked on at the Department of Neurology at the Indiana University School of Medicine and ultimately the purpose of this project was to create a digital interface that could be used with patients that have ALS as a way to explore their capacities for self-expression.”

The study paired up eight patients each with an art therapist as well as a dynamic sculptor. The sculptor gathered information from the patient based on psychological data, eye movements and skin responses. This was transferred to the digital interface, and the art therapist helped the patient explore the digital imagery, seeing how he could express himself and examine his therapeutic goals.

Information was recorded for six of the patients, who all responded that the therapy was beneficial for them and would recommend art therapy to other ALS patients. Five out of the six patients also said that the therapy was calming.

While the study was small, researchers said that it was a proof of concept study that showed that the innovation can have a major impact on the care of these patients, and are encouraging further study of any innovative, state of the art therapy that can help ALS patients.

At the Alameda Center for Rehabilitation in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, we are always looking to bring different types of state of the art therapy into our multidisciplinary programs to help achieve success in every way for all of our patients and residents.

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